King's Cross vigil on Tuesday to highlight cycle safety lessons London can learn from the Dutch

Cycling and road safety campaigners ask: “Why are Londoners at least twice as likely to die in a bike crash as the Dutch?”

by Simon_MacMichael   December 16, 2011  

Amsterdam Bicycles (Jorge Royan, Wikimedia Commons)

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.

7 user comments

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Quoting Ranger's "blog" (for which read PR release)

"The Mayor has asked TfL to commission an independent review of the design, operation and driving of construction industry vehicles such as the skip lorries, tipper trucks and cement mixers we see on our roads every day. We will look at how we can make those vehicles safer through physical improvements such as side bars, extra mirrors and sensors; and through better training for drivers of these large vehicles"

This is just one example of how Boris tries to pass the buck to someone else (he also blames the drivers of these HGVs and other vehicles). As London Mayor he has absolutely ZERO influence on how HGVs are desined, built or operated - design and build is largely an EU prerogative these days as HGVs travel internationally, and driving standards and road traffic law is determined at national level. As for driver behaviour, he definitely can't influence that, or the fact that otherwise sensible and reaosnable people can turn into selfish aggressive monsters as soon as they get behind the wheel (if we are honest with ourselves, who among us has not, occasionally, felt a red mist descend when we drive?)

It is much the same argument as the US National Rifle Association's mantra "guns don't kill people, people kill people". (You can more or less read that as cars don't etc, and we should all be aware that a car is as lethal as any gun if mishandled.) It is true, but it is not the point - the one thing Boris CAN do is determine highways engineeering standards which influence safety, you might say which save motorists from themselves.

But he won't do it. Not unless we really put the screws on him. Protests and vigils will help, and I will be there to lend my small voice, but what we really need is for some brave soul to cite Boris and the senior TfL management as defendants in a civil or even a criminal action for their personal loss/damages or for corporate manslaughter, so that they have to explain and attempt to justify their inaction ina proper judicial setting.

posted by Paul M [305 posts]
16th December 2011 - 12:38

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Good post, Paul M.
If Boris spent as much energy on making London a more pleasant place as he does in trying to deflect attention and responsibility we'd be living in a much better city.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
16th December 2011 - 13:17

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Totally agree excellent post by Paul M.

posted by belgravedave [162 posts]
16th December 2011 - 15:02

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London cyclists should count themselves fortunate to at least have organised campaigning on their behalf. I cycle around Hampshire on a daily basis and not one journey goes by without me being subjected to bad mannered driving, verbal abuse and dangerous driving. Spare a thought for us country bike bumpkins!

Bike Lifer

posted by Bike Lifer [12 posts]
16th December 2011 - 19:36

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Err corrections:

in the UK there are 3.6 million deaths of cyclists per 100 million kilometres ridden. Should 3.6 deaths?

collisions in London runs into there figures. Should be collisions in London run into three figures?

posted by horizontal dropout [144 posts]
16th December 2011 - 20:43

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Maybe http://www.pompeybug.co.uk/links/ could help to start you organising Hampshire? It's much-needed.

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
16th December 2011 - 20:51

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@horizontal dropout - thanks, both corrected

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7837 posts]
16th December 2011 - 23:12

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