Stats reveal London's deadly cycling zone… if you're a woman

Blogger finds 14 women and no men killed in one area of Central London since 2001... nearly all by lorries

by Simon_MacMichael   February 19, 2013  

Central London cyclist fatalties, 2001-12 (source I Cycle Liverpool)

Cycling blogger Adrian of I Cycle Liverpool has uncovered the startling fact that in one sizeable area of Central London, 14 women – but no men – have been killed while riding bikes over the past 12 years, all but one by a lorry or bus.  The finding was made as he was analysing STATS19 data on cyclist fatalities over the last decade or so.

Adrian, who blogs at I Cycle Liverpool, was using mapping to look for patterns in the data, which is collated by the Department for Transport, when the geographical coincidence leapt out at him.

The area concerned is a circle with a radius of 1.5km centred roughly on Lamb’s Conduit Street. That gives it an area of a little over 7 kilometres squared – more than twice the size of the City of London, the ‘Square Mile’ that has an area of 2.9 kilometres squared.

That zone extends from beyond the Kings Cross Gyratory in the north to Waterloo Bridge in the south, and from Fitzrovia in the west to the Barbican in the east.

And within that killer circle, 14 female cyclists – and women exclusively – have lost their lives from 2001 onwards, and in 13 of those incidents, the vehicle involved was a lorry or a bus.

It’s an observation rather than a fully funded piece of academic research, it’s based on an arbitrary line drawn round victims with their gender in common – immediately outside the circle, there’s a cluster of male deaths at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge - but it’s one that merits closer examination.

As Adrian points out, in the period concerned, across Great Britain as a whole, male cyclist fatalities outnumbered female ones by a ratio of 4.9 to 1. Yet here, in the heart of London, is a sizeable zone that consistently bucks that trend.

That an unusually high proportion of female cyclists are killed in London, and that large vehicles are involved in most of those incidents, is not news, and the issue has been the subject of research by academics and transport experts alike.

One finding from such studies is that females may be more at risk because they are more likely to stop at red lights and to ride to the left to keep out of the way of traffic – something that then puts them in the danger zone of a left turning lorry.

Lorries were involved in 11 of the 14 fatalities, buses in a further two. All but two of the incidents happened in daylight. In seven of the 13 deaths caused by large vehicles, the lorry or bus was turning left. But in some of these cases, where the cyclist was ahead of the large vehicle and not seen.

Speaking at the parliamentary inquiry Get Britain Cycling last month, Martin Gibbs, policy and legal affairs director at British Cycling pointed out that in 2011 not a single cyclist was killed in Paris.

It’s an attention grabbing statistic, and in some ways a misleading one – the area concerned is more comparable to Inner London than Central London – but much tighter restrictions on the movement of large lorries in the centre of the French capital are one reason behind it.

Cyclists are killed there, and by lorries – a female cyclist near Bastille the same week Gibbs cited that 2011 figure, and last October, an Equipe journalist who specialised in cycling – but the restrictions on their movements, and widespread infrastructure such as kerbed lanes, does appear to be having an effect.

When we looked at the incidents in London identified by Adrian, or at least those we can find details for – three, one as recent as 2009, received no press coverage whatsoever as far as we can ascertain – we found some common themes.

Many victims were travelling in the morning from home to a workplace of place of study in the zone concerned.  Most worked or studied in what could broadly be termed creative industries, including publishing and fashion, both of which have a higher than average proportion of female.

Both those, and other creative industries, have heavy concentrations in terms of businesses and academic institutions in the circle on the map; so too, it should be acknowledged, do medicine and the law, yet we’re not seeing lawyers or medical staff among the victims.

Could it be that women working or studying in the creative industries, often typified by low pay or even unpaid internships, are more likely to ride a bike to work partly for economic reasons and partly because they see fellow workers riding in? Is there a case for targeting specific types of employers or academic institutions with a safety message?

The only cyclist to die in an incident not involving a lorry or bus was an exception to the general trend for several reasons – she died following a collision with a motorbike, was an accountant, worked not in the circle identified by Adrian but in Canary Wharf, with the incident being the only one of the 14 to take place on the Embankment.

That’s perhaps significant because location, too, emerged as a potential factor, with three broad areas in particular causing concern – the King’s Cross Gyratory and Euston Road, with three fatalities and others nearby, Clerkenwell Road, where three successive main junctions have each been the site of a woman losing her life, and the Southampton Row area, again with three deaths.

While many of the incidents resulted in calls for safety of cyclists to be improved and, in some cases, promises of action from the relevant authorities, to date little has happened; of those three wide locations, only King’s Cross has come under specific scrutiny as Transport for London has launched its junctions review, now ongoing for more than a year.

London, it’s true, is a huge city, and it is simply impossible to introduce new infrastructure overnight on a wholesale basis, but does the safety focus on introducing changes at existing and planned cycle superhighways, none of which come right into the heart of the city, mean that areas where action is most urgently needed are being ignored?

If there is a crumb of encouragement in the figures, it’s that while 2009 was a particularly black year, with four of the fatalities, since student Deep Lee died at King’s Cross in October 2011, there have been no further deaths within that circle.

It was her death, plus those of Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko further east, at Bow Roundabout, that saw the issue of cycle safety become a political issue and led to mayor Boris Johnson ordering Transport for London to conduct its junctions review.

In those same months, again in east London, the horrific injuries sustained by Times journalist Mary Bowers led to The Times launching its Cities fit for Cyclists campaign that has also kept the issue of cycle safety high.

The London Cycling Campaign, meanwhile, says that it is making progress in getting councils to sign up to its Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling pledge.

Earlier this month we highlighted a Transport Research Laboratory report that was largely based on data from 2010 and 2011 and said there was little awareness within the construction industry of the risks their lorries posed to cyclists in London.

Could it be, however, that 2011 may come to be viewed ultimately as a watershed year, at least for the deaths of female cyclists in that killer zone? Are the safety messages aimed at cyclists and drivers of large vehicles finally bringing about a change?

24 user comments

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I work slap bang in the centre of this 'death zone'. I am a passionate cyclist and regular cycle commuter myself, an LCC/BC/CTC member etc. I see terrible, aggressive driving on a daily basis but plenty of terrible cycling too - pavements, wrong way down one way streets, skipping lights, allowing themselves to be bullied into the gutter, glamour girls on Pashleys without helmets riding la-la style down the middle of the road, the works. I also walk through Bloomsbury most days and see the Utopian situation of segregated cycle lanes in that area. The more reports I read like this, the more I think segregated cycle lanes are the only way forward in all our cities. Some cyclists and drivers will just never learn so we should just do everything we can to keep the two factions apart. Obviously reverse-engineering modern cycle infrastructure into a city as busy and complex as London is no mean feat but I'm struggling to see other options right now.

posted by Yennings [233 posts]
19th February 2013 - 10:52


Not convinced the female-only element is particularly significant. If I expand and move the circle just a smidge, I could bring in 5 males.

I'd say more interesting is the fact that across the entire area, the split is roughly equal. Anyone know the male/female split of cyclists in London?

posted by Darkerside [65 posts]
19th February 2013 - 10:58


Yennings wrote:
I also walk through Bloomsbury most days and see the Utopian situation of segregated cycle lanes in that area. The more reports I read like this, the more I think segregated cycle lanes are the only way forward in all our cities.

I have very mixed feelings about segregated cycle lanes. They often dump you back out in to the traffic at the worst moment - right on a junction, with no opportunity to move out an integrate with the traffic earlier (and junctions seem to be where all the nastiest incidents occur). They also frequently get covered in debris, which you can't easily avoid because it would involve hopping the curb. They also take up more space for an equivalent amount of cycle-able space, and that means they aren't always practicable (Bloomsbury has nice wide streets so not a problem there). And lastly (and, I know, not a concern for many) they can be a really slow way to get around as they are rarely wide enough to overtake slower riders.

I do see the benefits for new cyclists and those who are more cautious or just not in a hurry. But I'm not sure that the benefits outweigh the downsides and design difficulties. Would it be better to spend the money on a better training (for all parties) and enforcing safety regs for lorries?

posted by step-hent [718 posts]
19th February 2013 - 11:10


It's possible that male cyclists ride more assertively and are more likely to take the lane - I have noticed on my ride in that most of the male cyclists I see are on road/FGSS bikes and ride assertively, while many female cyclists seem less confident in their road positioning, but I think there is an issue with how some drivers respond to male vs female cyclists.

I ride a Dutch-style bike, but I'm not slow - I'm fit and can keep up a good speed. However, many drivers push past me and seem to assume that I'm not travelling that fast, because I'm a woman on a 'granny bike'. All too often I am forced to slow down rapidly because a driver has misjudged our relative speeds, and I think partly this is due to assumptions about how fast I'm going based on what bike I'm riding (it happens less when I ride my touring bike).

When I ride, I'm confident, assertive, and I stay the heck away from HGVs. But you can't control how drivers think or behave, and without better provision on our roads, we're going to keep seeing these problems.

posted by babybat [27 posts]
19th February 2013 - 11:51


Darkerside wrote:
Not convinced the female-only element is particularly significant. If I expand and move the circle just a smidge, I could bring in 5 males.

I'd say more interesting is the fact that across the entire area, the split is roughly equal. Anyone know the male/female split of cyclists in London?

To answer your question, about 25% of London cycle commuters are female. KSIs among women are disproportionately high - I odn't have the exact figure but it may be more than half.

There is all sorts of speculation as to why that may be. One explanation often advanced is that women are more law-abiding, and so less likely to run red lights, for example. While amber-gambling or running a light turning red is just plain stupid, anticipating a light turning green and moving away as soon as the way is clear and before the surrounding traffic gets started makes sense to me, especially given that a disportionately high number of KSIs, men or women, result from left-turning lories at junctions.

posted by Paul M [345 posts]
19th February 2013 - 11:55


How much of this relates to traffic light advance stop boxes with filter-up-the-inside lanes? One of the most dangerous aspects of 'cycle infrastructure' in any city imo. I never use them due to the danger of being caught out before reaching the box as the lights turn.

posted by james-o [229 posts]
19th February 2013 - 12:24


james-o wrote:
How much of this relates to traffic light advance stop boxes with filter-up-the-inside lanes? One of the most dangerous aspects of 'cycle infrastructure' in any city imo. I never use them due to the danger of being caught out before reaching the box as the lights turn.

I agree - let's be honest, new cyclists and the less confident are more likely to follow 'suggestions' from signage etc. Encouraging these cyclists to use the gutter up the inside of other traffic, is a terrible idea and should be stopped.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [1251 posts]
19th February 2013 - 12:36


Well done on the thoughtful analysis of the raw data. Too often stats like this lead to knee-jerk conclusions, e.g. "Ban women from riding bikes within that circle".

posted by mbrads72 [158 posts]
19th February 2013 - 13:28


I notice the box contains some for the worst junctions (eg Holborn, Aldwych, Tottingham Court Road) and roads (eg New Oxford St, Euston Rd, Kingsway) and for cyclist in central London.
Also there are many roads that are multi lane one-way which become race tracks for Taxis and cars between the lights.
It's not a pleasnt area to cycle through.

As so many of these roads are so wide, there is ample space for a segregated 2m wide cycle lane along them.

posted by thereverent [356 posts]
19th February 2013 - 13:52


I have very mixed feelings about segregated cycle lanes. They often dump you back out in to the traffic at the worst moment - right on a junction...

Nobody wants cycle lanes like this, but that doesn't mean we can't try and push for good quality ones.

If cycling safely requires assertiveness and "taking the lane" to be safe, its always going to be a minority activity for the fitter more confident people only.

Personally, I'd rather cycling was available to everyone and I don't think the solution to that is to make everyone dress up in high-viz, helmets and follow "Cyclecraft", then blame them when they don't. Its great advice on how to deal with the current awful infrastructure and road layout, but it is not a blueprint for how to create a nice cycling environment for most of the population.

posted by ribena [169 posts]
19th February 2013 - 14:17


Holy crap, did nobody notice the Bow Church Male Death Cross?

Central London cyclist fatalties, 2001-12 (source I Cycle Liverpool).jpg

posted by Matt_S [227 posts]
19th February 2013 - 15:04


I've had a BRILLIANT idea. We need a public education campaign with a great tagline based on Nicola Adams and something about 'left-hook'.

Appeal to the womenfolk (by using one of their own) and make them aware that being left-hooked is a BAD thing.

"What the fook?
Mind my left-hook!"

(Far better than that).

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [1251 posts]
19th February 2013 - 15:46


Let's face it the ladies are generally (not always) less assertive; but there are blokes who aren't experienced and less assettive too. Thos who aren't assertive, don't insist on going to the front of the traffic queue at junctions and lights. If there are large trucks buses turning left and you haven't pulled in front of them as our Advance Stop Lines (ASLs) enable us to do, you will be placed in the danger zone, and this is where most fo the fatalities have aoccured.

Remember if we don't have the inside filter and these ASLs and boxes (and we don't in many areas) approaching a junction or stop line is much more dangerous.

I travel at at average of 30kph and DO take the lane where necessary (Lower Thames underpass for example) and it works with everyone except black cabs, and the odd minicab, who think that we shouldn't take up their roadspace Angry , so they try and scrape past your elbow - frightening at any speed let alone 30mph.

Curbed cycle lanes are not ideal for all the reasons mentioned above.

If people respected each other on the road - we would have very little of the issues that we have today. When not in vehicles people generally respect each other (walking along the pavement for example) much more. In the little (or large) metal box, the world becomes somehow unreal.

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posted by Bigcog [21 posts]
19th February 2013 - 16:09


I'm not sure that the massive over-analysis (as alluded to by Matt_S) is actually helpful.

You end up not being able to see the wood for the trees. Analyse enough circles, squares, triangles or whatever and you could probably write a thesis on geometry but it won't help with the central tenet of road safety in London.

posted by crazy-legs [655 posts]
19th February 2013 - 16:23


Damn near zero for the riding up the inside - mostly the left hook overtaking move, or cutting in after passing.

Road awareness may help and some research suggests that women and men observe the road around them in different ways. The 5000 cyclist Ox-Cam survey thought they had identified such a factor, which guided the delivery of the key safety campaign for cyclists to use the lifesaver - looking back over their shoulder regularly to see what vehicles were coming up behind. Do men have a greater spatial awareness that gives a heightened state of alertness to dangerous moving large vehicles outside the forward field of vision?

Road design can also address this, naturally but since segregation delivers the hazard of junctions and conflicting movements, there may be merit in using designs which match speeds and directions with good sighting distances when traffic flows merge, and design out hazards - for example protected nearside space on left hand corners, and offside space for right turns.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [560 posts]
19th February 2013 - 17:21


Not sure the circle really means anything:

But the ratio of male_deaths:female_deaths compared to the ratio of male_miles:female_miles would be interesting to me.

Does anyone have figures for total cycling miles split by gender in the city?

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posted by mckechan [222 posts]
19th February 2013 - 18:01


Agreed, this sounds like clustering co-incidence, particularly as the area was carefully and manually selected.

When you manually filter large enough data sets, you tend to end up getting whatever the person(s) doing the filtering wants to see.

posted by Paul J [816 posts]
20th February 2013 - 7:46


I ventured, with some trepidation, into the circle of death from the its eastern sector yesterday evening at seven o'clock. I was on foot, it was dark. A little murky. It was cold. And I believe I may have stumbled on another reason why so many cycling accidents occur in this benighted and treacherous part of the world: NO LIGHTS ON ONE IN THREE OF THE BIKES. Not totally scientific, I grant you, but I reckon the sample must have been around fifty bikes in ten minutes, and there were more than fifteen with either no front light or no back light, or neither front nor back lights. I think statisticians would deem that a reliable survey. Were this a debate about wearing helmets, some would say that it's just natural selection.

@MattS - genius. Venture east of Tower Bridge on the south side and you'll see the Bermondsey Death Star.

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posted by dullard [140 posts]
20th February 2013 - 14:09


The councils concerned – looks like City of Westminster, City of London, Islington and Camden – and Transport for London, are all bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Part of the Equality Act 2010, they are obliged to have due regard to the need to, amongst other things, “Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not”. A “protected characteristic” is legalese for things like gender, ethnicity and disability.

Since significantly more women cyclists are being killed than men, then something is clearly going wrong – and should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

posted by austen.croydonc... [10 posts]
20th February 2013 - 16:38


I think the majority of the deaths in these cases happened during daylight hours, but yes, the lack of lights can be annoying. I work near a university, and see a large number of students with no lights/poor lights on in the winter. A hi-vis jacket is no substitute for properly bright lights. I'd be happy to see more enforcement for unlit cyclists - Kensington & Chelsea council did a push giving away free LED blinky lights which is a much more positive move than just fining people.

posted by babybat [27 posts]
20th February 2013 - 17:29


Just read Mersey Travels study into increasing cycle use. 123 pages with no mention of improving cycle routes. I can't fault Mersey Travel's interest in the subject but there is no point in training target adults to cycle and give them bikes if the routes into central Liverpool - like do many other UK cities - are developed so poorly if at all.

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1221 posts]
21st February 2013 - 1:25



What do you suggest? Make women ride more like men?

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posted by dullard [140 posts]
21st February 2013 - 13:03


Great stat capture by Adrian. This is the nexus of the main freight routes out of London to west and north. So the more chauvinistic driving styles when dealing with women cyclists can be explained. Particularly vicious is the left turn west towards Hammersmith and Heathrow at the north end of Vauxhall Bridge. Here, drivers worry more about freight and check-in deadlines than human lives.

Disappointing to see Southwark Council arguing for a narrowing of Cycle Superhighway Route 5 along the A202, to accommodate wider pavements as part of TfL town centre plan for Camberwell. The Council's RevitaliSE5 team refused to acknowledge there were potential lessons in road space allocation to cyclists from the Walworth Road regeneration, which is now widely regarded as a more hazardous cycling experience than previously. It is the A202 which leads up to Vauxhall Bridge. Southwark Council also elevated freight vehicles in road prioritisation in its Transport Plan 2011, which doesn't help stem the flow of blood.

Would be good to see full KSI stats for this kill zone to confirm the trend.

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posted by visitcamberwell [1 posts]
23rd February 2013 - 19:57


I live right in the centre of that circle.

posted by velobetty [67 posts]
15th July 2013 - 11:54