The latest cyclist casualty figures from TfL look like good news. Cyclist deaths and serious injuries appear to have gone down at the same time as the number of people in London cycling – especially commuting into the centre – is increasing.
And yet the number of cyclists killed or suffering life-changing injuries in collisions with motor vehicles remains appallingly high, and much greater than we see in other pro-cycling European cities.
On top of this, surveys consistently show that millions of Londoners are deterred from taking up cycling as a means of day-to-day transport because they fear not making it home again.
Little wonder that people feel this way. Eight cyclists have been killed in in collisions with motor vehicles in London so far this year – the latest one on Monday at the notoriously hazardous six-way junction at Bank. All but one case involved a heavy goods vehicle. If this year is like previous years, then another two to eight cyclists more will lose their lives, half of them in collisions with lorries.
So what is to be done? First, let’s see it from the fleet operators’ point of view. No good operator wants their lorry to kill a cyclist; no good lorry driver wants a death on their conscience. But three things really need to change.
The first is a complete redesign of major junctions to create safe space for cycling. Second, high quality cycling lanes that physically separate cyclists from motor vehicles (but which are wide enough for the faster commuter cyclist to overtake others) should be the norm on main roads. Third, only the best equipped HGVs should be allowed on London’s streets.
Lorry collisions are clearly the main problem right now. London Cycling Campaign is therefore cautiously pleased that our concept design for “direct visibility” cabs that make it far easier for lorry drivers to see cyclists in the “collision zone” are being taken seriously by the industry; and new and better cabs are now available on the market from forward-looking manufacturers. On top of improving lorry design, there is also a strong case for excluding tipper trucks from central London during the morning rush hour, despite the mayor’s claims to the contrary.
Reducing cyclist and pedestrian deaths must be at the top of the to-do list for our mayor and whoever takes over from him next year. It’s the only way to unlock the massive suppressed potential for cycling in London - and unlocking that potential is indeed absolutely essential to keep London moving as the capital sees an unprecedented rise in population.
In the meantime let’s hope there are no more deaths. But let’s also be realistic that, tragically, they will continue until decisive action is taken.