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Medics call for measures to protect cyclists in London

Air ambulance doctors reject Boris’s claims that increased numbers of riders will improve safety

Three of London’s air ambulance doctors have called for an overhaul of the capital’s cycle safety measures after three cyclists were killed in three weeks.

In an article for the Evening Standard, entitled How To Ride Safely, by Cyclist Doctors Who Save Lives, Mr Tom Konig, a trauma surgeon, Ali Sanders, an emergency medicine consultant and Mark Wilson, a Neurosurgeon, all defended cycling in London, saying: “Cycling remains a wonderful way to commute and travel cheaply and remain fit and healthy in the process and so should continue to be encouraged.”

But they added that it remained risky, and outlined a number of safety measures, including:

  • Avoid sharing roads with buses and HGV’s
  • Remember large vehicles are bigger than you and you will definitely come off worse - so give them a wide berth
  • Defensive riding
  • Wear a helmet
  • Use all your senses (don’t wear headphones)
  • Make your own decision about how ‘safe’ a cycle route is

The three doctors criticise the Mayor of London’s belief that a critical mass of riders will make the city safer, saying: “As a critical mass is being reached there was a thought that the sheer number of cyclists would in itself provide a protection from injury. 

“This has sadly not been the case as more and more cyclists are battling to share space with other vehicles.  Comparisons continue to be made with previous years and months, and London continues to be compared with other European countries.  

"Changing infrastructure and road design takes time.  We are falling behind and something needs to be done sooner rather than later to prevent more tragedies.”

The blue-painted Cycle Superhighways, they say, are “far from fit for purpose,” citing the case of French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, 20, who was knocked down and killed by a lorry outside Aldgate East Tube station as she rode home along CS2.

A three-year-old boy and a 91-year-old pensioner were also killed in the last fortnight.

And while the doctors write that wearing a helmet will go some way towards minimising brain injury, they add: “Whilst helmets are important our experience in pre hospital care suggests many of the cycling deaths occur when a vehicle has driven over the chest or pelvis causing terrible injuries.”

Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner, said: “The number of cyclist deaths in London so far this year, five, is roughly half what it was at the same point last year - nine.

“The only difference between us and some cycling campaigners is that they want it to happen overnight. But roads and traffic are complicated and that is simply not possible. We are moving as quickly as we can, but instant changes rushed on to the road without adequate thought could easily be counterproductive, or worse.”

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