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Cycle Superhighway 2 “not fit for purpose" says surgeon who treated recent crash victims

Improvements on the way, says Andrew Gilligan

Cycle Superhighway 2 is not fit for purpose, says an accident and emergency surgeon who has treated victims of the notorious East London bike lane described at a recent inquest as “just a piece of blue paint”.

Tom Konig, a surgeon at Royal London Hospital operated on two of riders killed on CS2 in November. An army surgeon and cyclist he believes cyclists need far better protection on London’s streets.

He told the BBC: “It’s difficult to point fingers but there is a lot of finger-pointing going on at the moment. Our hospital is on Cycle Superhighway 2 on Whitechapel Road and we’ve seen a lot of deaths on that Cycle Superhighway. We’ve had deaths of members of staff at this hospital, going to and from work.

“If I am to put my injury-prevention hat on, I don’t think that road is fit for purpose.”

There have been five cyclist deaths on or close to Cycle Superhighway 2 since it opened in 2011. On November 5 Brian Holt, a porter at Mile End Hospital, part of the same NHS Trust as Royal London, was killed after being hit by a truck.

According to the BBC, in 2004 the Royal London trauma team saw 24 major trauma cases involving cyclists, 69 in 2009 and 109 in 2013. Between 2001 and 2012, the number of daily cyclists in London rose from 290,000 to 570,000.

Mr Konig said: “It’s incessant. On Monday morning we had two patients who were bleeding to death in the resuscitation room, another case yesterday of a patient who was bleeding to death, I can’t just pretend it’s not happening.

“If this was an infectious disease outbreak and we said nothing people would ask us why we had not spoken up about it.”

This isn’t the first time Mr Konig has spoken up. In 2012 he told The Times: “You see a whole scope of cycling injuries, from grazes to people whose lower limbs have been run over or who end up in hospital for two or three months with a broken pelvis.

"But with some injuries, such as when a lorry has just turned across a cyclist and driven straight over their pelvis or chest, the cyclist will still be conscious and be slowly dying in front of you.

“You do your absolute best to get them to a place of safety as quickly as possible, but you are fighting a battle from the get-go and everyone involved has to be on the top of their game to save that person’s life. And even if you do, there is such a long road of complex surgery and teaching them to walk and speak again and knowing they may never go back to work.”

“With most of [serious] injuries, it’s a young man’s game — it tends to be young men who drive too fast, drink too much and get into fights. But with cycling injuries, it’s everyone, both young and old, male and female.”

Shenan Hettiaratchy, a surgeon at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington says trauma centres are getting better at saving lives and at improving the life outcomes of crash victims,

He said: “We see these injuries day after day and after a while, because you know it’s preventable, it is depressing.

“We need to do something about this, because these are young, fit healthy people - by definition, they are cycling to work - and they are losing their lives or their quality of life in accidents that could be prevented.”

Speaking after yesterday’s conference between cycle campaigners, city officials and road haulage groups, London cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan laid out the city’s plans to improve cycling provision.

“We’ll see a huge network of superhighways delivered to much better standard than now, including segregation right across central London and in parts of the suburbs as well. We’ll see a massive network of back street quietways for people who want to avoid the main roads altogether and we’ll see dozens of reshaped and safer junctions.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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