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Widow of cyclist killed at Bow roundabout warned TfL there would be another tragedy there

Widow accusses TfL of negligent design, LCC chief reveals organisation warned TfL about danger junction before Superhighway painted

The wife of Brian Dorling, the London cyclist killed by a lorry as he rode to work through the Bow interchange three weeks ago, has revealed that she told police officers and a traffic engineer that another cyclist would die at the same location while watching a reconstruction of the events surrounding her husband’s death.

That prediction, shockingly, came true yesterday evening with the death at the same junction of a 34-year-old female cyclist, also struck by an HGV, the third London cyclist killed following a collision with a lorry in less than six weeks.

Debbie Dorling, commenting on an article about the latest incident in the BBC London website, added that while watching the reconstruction at Bow roundabout, she had seen three cyclists experience near-misses.

The deaths of both father of three Mr Dorling, who worked at the Olympic Park site as a quantity sureyor, and the woman who lost her life yesterday, happened at the location where Barclays Cycle Superhighway 2 comes to an end.

Newham Council has refused to allow the facility, which starts at Aldgate, to continue into its own territory as was originally planned, reportedly due to safety concerns.

That has brought intense scrutiny on one of the Mayor of London’s flagship transport policies, derided by some critics from the outset as nothing more than a lick of paint that if anything lulled cyclists into a false sense of security.

Indeed, in a separate comment to a article earlier in the day, Mrs Dorling had said: “Whoever designed the superhighway on that roundabout is completely negligent,” a point she reiterated to the BBC.

News of the latest fatality, which happened on the eve of today’s tour by an estimated 300 riders of what, until yesterday at least, were considered London’s ten most dangerous junctions for cyclists, has shocked the cycling community in London and beyond.

It also comes at the end of a week in which Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London Commissioner Peter Hendy were quizzed over cycling safety by Greater London Assembly Members during a transport questions session on Wednesday.

Much of that focused on the mayor and TfL’s insistence, outlined in a press release issued that same morning, that training lorry drivers and encouraging fleet operators to sign up to voluntary regulations is the best way to protect cyclists, rather than redesigning infrastructure such as junctions.

That issue is once again in the spotlight as the result of a cyclist’s life coming to an end prematurely, and it is one that you might hope would become increasingly hard for TfL and Mr Johnson to ignore as clamour mounts for them to take concrete and decisive action action.

Yet the very question of the safety of cyclists at the Bow roundabout is one that was highlighted to TfL even before Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS2 was put in place, as Ashok Sinha, chief executive of London Cycling Campaign, revealed on its website today.

“During a 2010 inspection ride, prior to the implementation of the Cycle Superhighway that connects with this junction, we warned TfL in the starkest terms of the dangers of left-turning vehicles, high traffic volumes and speeds, and the absence of provision for cyclists,” he explained.

“And when we saw the woefully inadequate design for the Superhighway in February, we wrote to senior Transport for London management to warn them expressly that this roundabout posed a continued and real danger.

“We are appalled at this latest, preventable death and are fearful of what may happen when large numbers of cyclists have to tackle this junction on their way to and from the Olympics.

“We cannot understand how this junction can form part of what is one of the Mayor’s flagship cycling projects,” Mr Sinha concluded. LCC has called for an immediate redesign of the junction.

A junction, moreover, that will be the gateway to the Olympic Park next summer for a large proportion of the visitors to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It’s perhaps reflective of the often piecemeal, ill-thought-out approach to provision for cyclists in this country that one aspect of cycling infrastructure at the Bow roundabout has actually been praised for its design; a £2,4 million floating towpath along the River Lea.

That’s not a TfL project, however, having been commissioned jointly by British Waterways and London Thames Gateway Development Corporation.

Moreover, it runs North-South at a location while most cycle traffic in the area does not – Brian Dorling was heading East on his way to work, while yesterday’s as yet unnamed victim was riding West; had as much thought and planning gone in to addressing the needs of cyclists on the East-West axis, might those tragedies have been avoided?

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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