Cycling campaigners, road safety groups and two high-profile London bloggers will unite next Tuesday evening at King's Cross to send out a vital Christmas message to Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London, asking, “Why are Londoners at least twice as likely to die in a bike crash as the Dutch?”
The vigil, which also calls upon the mayor to rethink his policy of prioritising traffic flow over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, has been organised jointly by the London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace, London Living Streets and Danny Williams and Mark Ames of, respectively, the Cyclists in the City and I Bike London blogs.
They will be joined at the vigil, which takes place at 6pm on Tuesday 20 December at the junction where 24-year-old student Deep Lee died under the wheels of a lorry in October, by the families and friends of some of the cyclists who have died on the capital’s streets in recent months.
According to LCC, cyclists in London are more than twice as likely to die while riding their bikes as their counterparts in the Netherlands, where according to a 2008 study, 1.1 cyclists lost their lives in a road traffic collision per 100 million kilometres travelled.
While separate figures aren’t available for London in isolation, in the UK there are 3.6 deaths of cyclists per 100 million kilometres ridden.
Some 16 cyclists have died on the capital’s streets so far during 2011, and once fatalities of pedestrians, motorcyclists and motor vehicle occupants are taken into account, the annual death toll in road traffic collisions in London runs into three figures.
LCC’s key campaign in the run-up to next year’s mayoral elections is called ‘Go Dutch’ and calls for Dutch-style infrastructure to be put in place for London’s cyclists including sufficient, safe space being given over to cyclists on major roads in the city.
Talking of Tuesday’s vigil, the organisation’s chief executive, Ashok Sinha, commented: "Every few days another London family is torn apart by the violent death of a loved one, killed needlessly on the capital's streets on foot, on a bike, or in a car.
"It’s hard to imagine the pain these families will feel, especially on Christmas Day when we traditionally share the love of those closest to us.
"Sixteen of the road fatalities in 2011 have been Londoners riding bikes (up from 10 last year), and this year there have been dozens of people on foot also killed.
"London cyclists have the same right to get about safely as people in Holland, so why are we more than twice as likely to be killed in collisions in our streets?"
Mark Ames of the ibikelondon blog said that London could learn much from the approach adopted across the North Sea in the Netherlands.
"The Dutch have shown that high-quality cycle provision and child-friendly residential zones can reduce this death toll dramatically, and improve the quality of life for all city-dwellers,” he explained.
“These designs are being adopted all over the world, but London is being left behind.”
Another blogger, Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City, maintained that priority needed to be given to the safety of cyclists, including in road design.
"People are being asked to fling themselves on bikes through multi-lane junctions where cycling is an after-thought,” he said. “The safety of cyclists and pedestrians should have just as much importance as the safety of motor users on London's streets."
In a blog post that appeared yesterday on the Greater London Authority’s website, the Mayor of London’s Transport Advisor, Kulveer Ranger, insisted that “The benefits of cycling are tremendous and, despite recent tragedies, it is getting safer.”
That contrasts with the view expressed earlier this week in a blog post here on road.cc by the Green Party’s Jenny Jones, one of the most prominent London politicians when it comes to the issue of cycle safety.
In his blog post and in a separate letter to Ms Jones, Mr Ranger outlines a number of initiatives that the mayor has set in motion on the subject, but they are all ones that have previously been announced, ranging from the Cycle Safety Action Plan through to the review, revealed last month, of construction industry lorries operating in London.
His letter to Ms Jones concludes by saying that “The Mayor, TfL and I acknowledge that more can always be done.”
The essential point being made by those putting pressure on Mr Johnson and TfL to improve conditions, however, is that so far they have done too little.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.