An estimated 2,500 people on bikes – perhaps more – took to the streets of London yesterday evening to join London Cycling Campaign in an appeal for ‘Space for Cyclists’ following the death on Monday of a third bike rider in three weeks.
The latest victim was a man aged in his forties killed when he was dragged beneath a lorry on High Holborn, his death giving renewed urgency to appeals from cycle campaigners to make the city’s roads safer for those who chose to get around by bicycle.
Yesterday’s ride, which began at Russell Square at 6.30pm, was the second organised by LCC in the space of just five days – last Friday, 1,500 cyclists rode from Tower Hill to Aldgate, scene of the death earlier this month of 20-year-old French student Philippine de Gerin-Ricard.
On 24 June, 41-year-old cyclist Paul Hutcheson died after a hit-and-run incident involving a car in Lewisham. Police subsequently arrested a 28-year-old man in connection with that incident.
On Twitter, Mark Ames who writes the I Bike London blog, said: “Incredible! #Space4Cycling is HUGE. 10 minutes in and they're still pouring past the start line in their hundreds.”
Later, he added: “A huge, gut-felt roar as #space4cycling reaches the crash site in Holborn. Can you hear us now, @MayorofLondon ?
“#Space4Cycling reaches around Holborn gyratory, down the Kingsway, into Lincoln's Inn and still they come, many thousands of angry Londoners.
“At the side of the road pedestrians 5 deep clap. A bus driver stops to cheer. ‘Sort it out, enough is enough.’ people say.
In a subsequent message, he revealed: "As I tweet, a HGV driver pulls up talking on a mobile handset. I tell him to stop. 'Cyclists should take more care' he says."
On Monday, LCC’s chief executive, Ashok Sinha, said: “Three Londoners have now been killed in three weeks, all of them on busy roads that provide no dedicated space for cycling.
"Mayor Boris Johnson must take swift and radical steps to redesign our streets to make them safe and inviting for cycling.
"The evidence is clear: if the Mayor doesn't take urgent action, then more Londoners will die needlessly cycling on our city streets."
LCC also revealed that a three-year-old boy had lost his life after being struck by a lorry in Northolt, West London, the second pedestrian to have lost their life in an incident involving an HGV in less than a fortnight.
The group Action For Lorry Danger – of which RoadPeace is a member, along with organisations including Living Streets, CTC and RoadPeace – will be holding a protest outside London’s City Hall, just as it did last week, to highlight the number of people, whether on bike or foot, who fall victim to lorries on London’s streets.
Yesterday afternoon, representatives of national cyclists’ organisation CTC was present at a meeting with road safety minister Stephen Hammond that addressed safety issues associated with lorries, among other things.
Ahead of that meeting, CTC’s chief executive Gordon Seabright said: “Along with the Mayor’s promised infrastructure improvements, Transport for London needs to change the way it deals with lorry traffic, and start restricting access to the largest vehicles during periods when cycle use is highest.
“Under current arrangements deliveries are banned at night, meaning lorries and cyclists are forced to share the space during peak commuting hours – a potentially lethal combination given the lack of good design in junctions for cyclists.”
In a guest blog post for the website Liberal Conspiracy, transport commentator Christian Wolmar, who is seeking nomination as Labour’s candidate for the next London mayoral elections due in 2016, said that despite the number of cyclists attending last Friday’s protest, “there needs to be a bigger more forceful response from the cycling community and its supporters.”
He went on: “One policy I advocate is reducing the number of freight lorries in central London at peak times. Several other European cities already have such rules.
“Conversely, in London, there is presently a night time ban on HGVs – implemented in 1985 when lorries were much louder – which dramatically increases HGV congestion during the day.
“Separating lorries from cycles at peak times is an urgent priority and greater flexibility on delivery times is a part of the solution. We need more than warm words from the mayor. We need leadership and action on this key London issue.”
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.