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Round-up of reaction to news of fifth cyclist fatality in London this month

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said cyclists need to take responsibility for their own safety following a nine-day period in which collisions with large vehicles claimed the lives of five cyclists in the capital. While he clearly states he wasn’t trying to blame the victims in those specific incidents, an opposition politician has accused him of doing just that, describing his remarks as “an insult to the dead.”

Speaking to radio station LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning, Mr Johnson maintained that cyclists were obliged to follow the rules of the road and to comply with traffic signs.

He said: “Some of the cases that we've seen in the last few days really make your heart bleed because you can see that people have taken decisions that really did put their lives in danger.

"You cannot blame the victim in these circumstances. But what you can say is that when people make decisions on the road that are very risky – jumping red lights, moving across fast-moving traffic in a way that is completely unexpected and without looking to see what traffic is doing – it's very difficult for the traffic engineers to second-guess that."

No suggestion has been made by police investigating the five fatalities this month, three of which occurred on or near Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS2 in east London, that the people who died were riding their bikes in such a way as to endanger their own lives.

On Twitter this morning, Labour’s former transport secretary Lord Adonis had urged Mr Johnson to take action, saying: "The mayor should appoint a rapid independent review of superhighways after the horror of all these cyclist deaths in London."

However, rejecting calls for an urgent review of the safety of cyclists in the city, Mr Johnson said that unless riders complied with traffic laws, "there's no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people's lives."

Quoted in the Guardian, Green London Assembly member Darren Johnson accused the Mayor of victim blaming and of "dodging responsibility."

He pointed out: “Four out of the five deaths of cyclists in the last nine days have involved either his blue paint or his red buses.

"The mayor's comments this morning which targeted cyclists breaking the law as the primary cause of death and serious injury is an attempt to blame the victims, rather than tackling the real problem of HGVs, buses and dangerous junctions.

"It is an insult to the dead and injured that the mayor continues to blame victims in this way, rather than accepting his responsibility and getting on with fixing the things he has direct control over."

The succession of fatalities has seen other high profile politicians call for segregated cycle lanes, such as that on the new section of CS2, opened last week. The original route from Aldgate to Bow has no such segregation.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told LBC: "Distressing as all this is, I really hope it doesn't discourage people from bicycling – it's got to be made safer and we have got to have more of these bicycling superhighways which physically separate cyclists from roads.

The Liberal Democrat leader added: "We as a government have said we want to make new road schemes fit for cyclists and at the same time we'll look at every other suggestion to make this a safe thing to do."

The Mayor’s own Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, whom he appointed to that position earlier this year, cautioned against taking hasty action but criticised CS2.

He told BBC London: "The danger in the current atmosphere of understandable alarm and concern is that we rush into some panic measure which actually makes things worse.”

However, Mr Gilligan added: "From the beginning, Superhighway 2 has been little more than blue paint and I've been pressing to change it."

National cyclists’ organisation CTC meanwhile called for new drivers of large vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches – all three types of vehicle have been involved in fatalities of cyclists in London this month – to have to undertake cycle training before they are granted a licence.

The appeal comes as the government prepares to publish a green paper regarding the training and testing of such vehicles.

CTC’s policy director, Roger Geffen, said: “We will investigate further options for reducing the number of large vehicles in urban centres at busy periods.

“Options that the organisation has considered in the past include banning lorries from city centres at peak periods and locating  distribution centres on the outskirts of cities.”

Its chief executive, Gordon Seabright, added: "CTC and all cyclists are sickened by the continuing failure to protect cyclists, in particular from the  dangers caused by lorries in our towns and cities. We want to see The Mayor of London and all those responsible for the safety of our streets living up to their promises.”

Martin Key, campaigns director at British Cycling, called for a national cycle awareness initiative to be launched.

"The fact that five cyclists have been killed in London in the last nine days is shocking news and an urgent investigation needs to take place into what could have been done to prevent these deaths," he commented.

"We have to do a better job of looking after each other on the roads.

"That includes significant investment in a nationwide cyclist awareness campaign rather than a few posters in a handful of cities.

“This is about changing the culture of how people get around, making cycling a more attractive and safer option for millions of people across Britain."
In its editorial today, the London Evening Standard says that “We can be a cycling city to rival any other in Europe: we just have to want to make it happen.”

The newspaper says:

The cyclist killed last night on one of London’s cycle superhighways, at Aldgate, is the fifth to die in nine days. The total killed this year in the capital is now 13. It is a reminder of the inadequacies and dangers of the blue cycling superhighways. As Debbie Dorling, the widow of the first cyclist to be killed on one, observes, these are little more than “comfort blankets”, giving cyclists a false sense of security on dangerous roads while mostly failing to segregate them from traffic.

The fatalities are tragic — though they should be put in context. Most London cyclists get to work each day without incident. Annual deaths have stayed roughly the same over the past decade, despite a huge increase in the numbers cycling: cycling is proportionately safer than it was. And motorists generally seem to be more conscious of the vulnerability of cyclists than they were even five years ago. This is, moreover, a dangerous time of year, with cycle commuters riding in the dark or dusk.

But a cycling city, which London aspires to be, cannot be safe only in summer and in optimal conditions: it must be safe in the dark and rain too. The Mayor has already launched his scheme for a safe cycling network, and says he will install CCTV at Bow to study the problems. Now he must go much further. We should consider an independent review into cycle safety in London. And we need a plan to transform the city’s cycle lanes and junctions, making much greater use of segregated lanes. TfL must now treat this as a transport priority.

This is a question of political will, not physical road space: other changes to our roads once branded unthinkable, such as bus lanes and the congestion charge, are now accepted parts of the system. London is a working city with a multiplicity of road users — cyclists, pedestrians, car and lorry drivers. Yet it should be possible for all of us to share the roads, given decent provision and mutual consideration. We can be a cycling city to rival any other in Europe: we just have to want to make it happen.

 

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.

45 comments

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congokid [263 posts] 2 years ago
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More victim blaming crap from Boris. What a pillock.

We should have expected this when he last foisted the blame for motor vehicle/bike collisions on cyclists, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

And the implication of his statement today is that nothing's going to change for vulnerable road users any time soon.

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congokid [263 posts] 2 years ago
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It's clear that the first instinct of anyone in a position to do something to improve the situation is to blame the victim.

In fact, victim-blaming has become so societally ingrained that many of us - including self-professed 'cyclists' on these very forums - don't even appear to realise we're doing it.

Town and city planners have brutalised our conurbations with massive infrastructure designed solely for motor traffic, so it's perhaps not really surprising that we in turn become brutalised.

That this is so is evident in the general attitude of motorists, who believe their needs supersede those of more vulnerable road users, and the knee-jerk victim-blaming response of Boris and his cronies in the coalition.

We need change now. And it needs to come from the top. They need to man up, stop being so craven in their denials of responsibility for this state of affairs and start pushing for change. They bleat on about not being a 'nanny state', but you can be absolutely certain they'd introduce and enforce a mandatory helmet law if they thought they could get away with it.

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squired [22 posts] 2 years ago
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To be fair to Boris, it may well be that he has had access to more detail about each incident and how exactly it happened. Should that be the case, his comments could have some weight behind them. Having said that, there is always the option that he didn't have such detail. My assumption though would be the former because one would expect someone in his position to be privvy to such information.

I certainly know from people who were on the scene at one of the incidents that the victim apparently performed an extremely stupid manouvre.

As for victim blaming, put simply the blame should be placed on whoever it was that was at fault, cyclist or driver.

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bikewithnoname [86 posts] 2 years ago
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lets be clear Boris explicitly didn't blame the victims.

Although I agree that change is needed.

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Lungsofa74yearold [282 posts] 2 years ago
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Plus 1 to squired's comments.

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dp24 [201 posts] 2 years ago
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Boris has provided cyclists with unsafe infrastructure, and is now looking to pass the buck so he doesn't get the blame.

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MadDog Madill [9 posts] 2 years ago
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People are being killed on London roads at a rate of more than 1 a month! That is completely crazy!!

I personally had a head-on collision with a car who was driving in the wrong lane last week. I did nothing about it, as my bike was not damaged and I got away with only a dead leg. I accepted it.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that letting a dangerous driver off with a bit of a talking to; is not sufficient and only adds to the problem.

I agree with congokid, we all need to be a lot less tollerent of this dangerously unfair playing-field. Me included.

The fault of any accident should automatically lie with the motor-vehicle driver until proved otherwise. Currently drivers have very little incentive to think about cyclists safety, we already have plenty of incentive to steer clear of them.

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MadDog Madill [9 posts] 2 years ago
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bikewithnoname wrote:

lets be clear Boris explicitly didn't blame the victims.

Although I agree that change is needed.

In much the same way that I'm NOT explicitly calling Boris and adulterer.

I think we need to bare in mind that people who hold public office and find it hard to keep their winky in their trousers and then lie about it, even though a love child might be involved, can't expect the voting public to have any respect for them when they start talking about matter of great importance.

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Goldfever4 [221 posts] 2 years ago
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squired wrote:

Blame should be placed on whoever it was that was at fault, cyclist or driver.

Completely agree, I've heard that at least one incident was a result of the cyclist's actions more than anything else, in which case why should anyone else be held accountable?

For the record, you will never convince me to ride up the inside of a large vehicle - stationary or otherwise - and I will never understand why anyone would do it at a roundabout or junction - just stupid, pointless and not worth it.

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GoingRoundInCycles [133 posts] 2 years ago
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MadDog Madill wrote:

The fault of any accident should automatically lie with the motor-vehicle driver until proved otherwise.

What exactly would be the point of blaming the (potentially) innocent for an accident that could not be avoided?

What other offences are there where people should be assumed to be guilty until proven innocent?

This has been a dreadful week but hysterical overreactions do not help anyone.

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CotterPin [63 posts] 2 years ago
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At this point in time we can no more blame the drivers than we can blame the cyclists. Equally we cannot yet decide what is to be done to resolve this issue. It may be that a multitude of issues caused these tragedies; poor driving skills, bad visibility, complex junctions, poor cycling skills. Only when more is known can an appropriate solution or range of solutions be considered. I think Johnson should be criticised for his failure to recognise that some form of urgent review is necessary rather than his comments about cyclists' road skills.

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MadDog Madill [9 posts] 2 years ago
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GoingRoundInCycles wrote:
MadDog Madill wrote:

The fault of any accident should automatically lie with the motor-vehicle driver until proved otherwise.

What exactly would be the point of blaming the (potentially) innocent for an accident that could not be avoided?

I'm not aying the blame would stay there, just that the satrting postion would be that. If investigation proved it was the cyclist fault, so be it. But the burden of proof could lie with the vihecle that has the physical and special advantage.

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GoingRoundInCycles [133 posts] 2 years ago
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MadDog Madill wrote:

I'm not aying the blame would stay there, just that the satrting postion would be that. If investigation proved it was the cyclist fault, so be it. But the burden of proof could lie with the vihecle that has the physical and special advantage.

Surely, much better to assume that neither party is to blame until all the evidence has been gathered and the investigation is complete?

Apart from having to endure the trauma of being party to a fatal accident, why should a totally innocent human being be additionally burdened with the suspicion that he/she is some sort of mindless, callous criminal until proved otherwise?

Would you want to be put in that position?

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Hamster [95 posts] 2 years ago
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GoingRoundInCycles wrote:

What other offences are there where people should be assumed to be guilty until proven innocent?

Any that involve H&S where the accused is asked to attend court.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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bikewithnoname wrote:

lets be clear Boris explicitly didn't blame the victims.

That's because he is not an idiot. He is a very intelligent, powerful, well connected individual.

He is also fucking evil.

He plays the bumbling idiot role well, but its just a front to draw people in. Like here for example, when you go back and go over his words he hasn't explicitly blamed the victims, he has however planted in peoples minds that they are at fault. This is a common tool used by Johnson. His responses are fully measured and deliberate to deflect as much blame or responsibility away from him whilst appearing to be sincere. The floppy haired fop nonsense brilliantly hides what a hateful, malevolent bastard he is.

If I saw him under the wheels of a car on one of his death trap cycle highways I'd climb on the car and push it down further.

Horrible tory filth.

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freespirit1 [224 posts] 2 years ago
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Mad Dog

British Justice relies on the principle of innocent until proved guilty.

The opposite could mean open season for vigilantes. God knows it has happened already with the situation in Bristol a couple of years ago.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12092600

Do you really want to go down that road? I feel that is totally wrong.

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SteppenHerring [328 posts] 2 years ago
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I was listening to the radio when driving home (yeah, I know - wuss) and that prat came on. I had to change channels or explode.

I've not ridden it but I've seen pictures of that Bow CS2 thing and it looks like it was designed by a psychopath (not in the mood for a quip on sounding like cyclepath).

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Colin Peyresourde [1724 posts] 2 years ago
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Looking at the statistics on the BBC the numbers this year are not really any different from other years. The only difference is that there has been a significant statistical cluster this past week.

I can imagine that Boris is under a lot of stress to do something about what has happened in the last week or so, but he is right to wait until we all know more.

If we are not to victim blame I think we should wait until we have something conclusively to discuss as to the causes, and then point the finger.

Knowing the media, they want to be judge, jury and executioner….i.e. drum up all kinds of fuss following anomalous events, and drive the public into a fever, and so have pushed and pushed Boris for a sound bite or controversial statement - it seems the context of what he said is perhaps not entirely honestly portrayed (happy to be proved wrong with actual transcripts if that's what someone wants to do - I don't really care, it is not entirely important what he has been goaded into saying).

I am in no way defending the CS's (I don't like them and don't use them). But what we are looking at here may or may not be a result of using them. But what if statistical analysis shows that actually they are safer (I doubt this - and am being devil's advocate) and do their job - but due to poor cycling/poor driving these events have happened? If people had there way they would pull them up tomorrow, and create something more dangerous….

Ultimately I hope that these deaths are all reviewed, and explanations provided. I also hope that an independent review of the CS does show that they are pieces of blue paint which have no further use than to win the votes of cyclists (but are useless at that too). But I actually think that the events of the last week are all independent of each other.

Hopefully the work will crystallise efforts to be pushed in the right way, whether it be cycling education, driver education or changes in infrastructure. We can all do with being safer out there, and hopefully the deaths will stop.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 2 years ago
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@Colin Peyresourde

I agree that the figures are not hugely different from previous years. But I only recently noticed that this year's casualty figures seemed set to be lower than last year - then within a week they'd caught up and could (God forbid) end up even higher before the year is out.

The 'clustering' in time perhaps isn't' the point, the point is the figures are too high and have been slowly creeping higher for many years now, even as figures for those _inside_ cars have been dropping. For a moment it looked as if that trend might not continue this year, but now that hope seems dashed. At some point something has to be done to change this.

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Colin Peyresourde [1724 posts] 2 years ago
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@FluffyKitten the statistics are still lower than some other years. But I know that another statistical anomalous week and they would well over shoot other years. Hopefully there will be no more this year.

I'm sure something wil be done. I just hope that it is coordinated and effective. Unfortunately I think that the TFL will be forced into half measures by political/public pressure to do something and nothing constructive will be formulated, which will be a travesty for the victims and their families.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 2 years ago
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Always the cyclist  14
Anyone see the recent episode of the gadget show? They had a 3 bike review. Trek/ribble/+1 with that very we'll known cycling athlete/expert Helen Skelton!

However preceding that segment of the show they had a London taxi driver on who stated that HE, I quote "hates cyclists" 5 dead in the last 9 days, can it get more tasteless and tactless than that, obviously the editor had a degree in the Atomic levels of a paper clip and their effects on global warming, so we know they are educated people. What a bunch of A-holes.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 2 years ago
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squired wrote:

To be fair to Boris, it may well be that he has had access to more detail about each incident and how exactly it happened.

I see little evidence that Boris really 'does' detail! So I'm a mite skeptical.

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Ush [692 posts] 2 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I'm sure something wil be done. I just hope that it is coordinated and effective. Unfortunately I think that the TFL will be forced into half measures by political/public pressure to do something and nothing constructive will be formulated, which will be a travesty for the victims and their families.

There's certainly a lot of "something must be done"

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Cycle_Jim [264 posts] 2 years ago
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I've spent a week in london this week, couldn't take my bike as I'm in a hostel. I haven't seen too much bad cycling and mostly fairly considerate drivers but it is mental here - its truly scary! I consider myself a competent cyclist but I'm not sure I could deal with it here! I'm sure I could but still, little un-nerving. I think a lot of people would be put off. There's easy changes

-No HGVs or Cars, neither are needed. I don't believe you need to have a car in the capital, the tube links are good - theres taxis and buses

-Cycle only roads

-Speed limits down to 20mph, most of the time traffic is moving slower and if you can get to 30mph - your more than likely not driving fit for conditions/situations

Thats 3 pretty much over night changes and you'd see more people getting into cycling.

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John Stevenson [251 posts] 2 years ago
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If Boris has any extra info, then it's coming from TfL who are claiming the rider who was hit last night rode out of a one-way street, Leman Street.

But 1) TfL are not in the crash-investigation biz, that's the Met's job

b) TfL are not exactly known for failing to talk bollocks about cycling. See their evidence at recent inquests, for example.

iii) TfL dodged a bullet recently when CPS decided not to prosecute for corporate manslaughter over the design of the King's Cross junction where a cyclist got killed, because the junction was built before the corporate manslaughter law was introduced. They have to be crapping themselves over the design of CS2, especially given the wealth of expert advice they had that it was dangerous. Anything they have to say about any cycling death is therefore totally suspect.

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IanW1968 [271 posts] 2 years ago
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Surely getting about without getting squished isn't too much to ask?

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Nzlucas [123 posts] 2 years ago
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This bit

'Mr Johnson maintained that cyclists were obliged to follow the rules of the road and to comply with traffic signs.'

this bit,

"We have to do a better job of looking after each other on the roads."

and this bit

“We can be a cycling city to rival any other in Europe: we just have to want to make it happen.”

Pretty much sum up the whole thing.

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pmanc [203 posts] 2 years ago
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"You cannot blame the victim in these circumstances." [goes on to blame victim]

Even IF there was an element of blame attributable to the cyclist in any of these cases, these comments are clumsy and crass in the extreme.

And the whole point is that of course we know that human being's f*ck up - this will never change - but civilised infrastructure ensures that small vulnerable road users are separated from big heavy fast road users (especially on busy roads), so when f*ck-ups happen, they are that much less likely to result in the kind of tragic senseless deaths we've seen here.

Boris was warned how bad some of these facilities were by very qualified people. He did nothing and more people have died. He has blood on his hands and he's making a bad thing worse with comments like this.

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mattanthony [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Redesigning roads will not solve the problem of cyclists being killed in London. ALL road users have to be better educated about city driving. I do like the idea of curfews on HGVs in rush hour - worked well during the Olympics and reduced congestion too. As there is a clear link between HGVs and the timing of the deaths over the past four years this has to be worth a try?

Note....There were no cycling deaths in Paris in 2012: a city where they also banned HGVs between 08:00 and 20:00.

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John Stevenson [251 posts] 2 years ago
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mattanthony wrote:

Redesigning roads will not solve the problem of cyclists being killed in London.

Vast swathes of evidence from the Netherlands and Denmark prove that claim utterly, totally and spectacularly wrong.

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