Monday, 9 January 2012

Ain't Gonna Ride In London No More

This evening at 6pm, the cyclists direct action group Bikes Alive are protesting outside King's Cross station, at the junction of York Way, Pentonville Road and Euston Road, to highlight the 60 percent rise in cycling deaths in London in the last two years.

This is the spot where, on 3 October 2011, student Min Joo Lee was killed, one of a number of cycling fatalities at the end of last year that included the death of Brian Dorling on 24 October at Bow roundabout and Svitlana Tereschenko, a Bow resident who died at the same junction on 11 November. Bikes Alive accuses Transport for London of exacerbating the risks for cyclists on major roads and junctions in London by prioritising speed and volume of motor vehicles over safety. Albert Beale, in a statement on behalf of the campaign, said:

"Monday’s event is the first step in a campaign to stop – by whatever nonviolent means needed – the completely unnecessary level of deaths, injuries and fear inflicted by motorists on the more vulnerable. I urge cyclists to join us on Monday. And if you don’t have a bike, bring your dancing shoes…"

Even before last year, London was the most dangerous place for cyclists in the UK , according to Department of Transport figures. The Mayor of London's cycle superhighway project, which essentially involves painting part of the road blue and encouraging motorists to avoid it (but with no legal sanctions if they don't), has been criticised as providing the illusion of greater cyclist safety without reducing traffic flows, particularly the number of heavy goods vehicles. The other big issue is the speed and carelessness of drivers, particularly at junctions, which often makes cycling in the capital a terrifying experience.

Unfortunately, I can't join the protest this evening: I do have dancing shoes but my dancing days are over and I can no longer cycle. In March 2010 I was hit by a car that sped out of Vallance Road in east London whilst I waited at the junction to turn into Whitechapel Road. I was lucky, in a way: stupidly I wasn't wearing a helmet, so I was fortunate not to have joined the grim fatality statistics after a head-on collision with a speeding vehicle. But the impact completely shattered my shoulder, has left me in constant pain over the last 22 months and has resulted in three unsuccessful operations (a fourth may eventually be scheduled this year). To add insult to these injuries, the Metropolitan police's Traffic Criminal Justice Unit failed to secure CCTV images of the accident before they were wiped after 30 days and after six months, had not even managed to get hold of the notebook of the attending police officer. It was therefore hardly a surprise that the driver was not charged with dangerous driving.

The accident and injuries I sustained have been life-changing. I'm an activist that can no longer take part in demonstrations (the slightest jolt on my shoulder is agonising), a former keen cyclist who has been relegated to an exercise bike and a person who rarely took anything more than the occasional paracetamol who is now addicted to industrial-strength pain killers. Whilst I may have had few illusions about the competence of the police before the incident, even I was flabbergasted by how cursory their investigation was. More importantly, my injuries are permanent. I may never be able to cycle again - but even if this changes and eventually it becomes possible to ride once more, I'm not sure that I'll want to, at least not in London.

There was a time when I would argue passionately that cycling was the best way to get around the city - and I'd ride 40 or 50 miles every week to prove it. But as long as such an overwhelming priority is given to impatient motorists over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, my advice to potential riders is now always: it is just too dangerous.

Image of ghost bike for Min Joo Lee from I Bike London


coshgirl said...

Really sorry to hear about your reasons for stopping cycling. There is no justice in this country for vulnerable road users, I'm afraid. It's hardly worth reporting an RTA to the police, as even with witnesses, you're unlikely to get justice in court (as I found out). One thing I must take issue with you however is your comment on cycle helmets. There is absolutely no way a helmet would protect you from a head-on collision with a car. Helmets are tested at low-impact and at speeds of less than 12mph. Unfortunately they are peddled as the universal panacea for cycle injuries and cyclists' road safety - detracting from the real issue which is how to tame the car and create safer environments for cyclists.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your accident, but I have to agree with Coshgirl re the helmet. I was hit by a car in 09 resulting in a broken collar bone and 2 ops. I was back on the bike as soon as I was allowed though. I know that cycling in London isn't wonderful, but it really isn't as dangerous as some people are trying to make out! I can't help but think that all this negativity is doing more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

I was hit in oct in parliament sq - shunted from behind! Came off but ended up with fractured back and pelvis md such severe PTSD I am having therapy! I will never ever ride in London again- I find sitting in a car or even crossing a road scary now! Not the type of person to be like this but too scary! I hope your shoulder improves it sounds awful! The police were actually lovely but as the case is ongoing can't talk about it but due to the location CCTV was not available to the likes of me and was unlikely to be facing me anyhow! What I find hard is dealing w it as I loved cycling too!

Anonymous said...

My car was hit by another driver who failed to stop after an accident on the junction of Barking Road (Boyley / Newham Bookshop)

At the traffic light junctions there are no CCTV, which is funny, as that is where you may get a car which jumps the light and hits pedestrians or another car from the other direction.

There are camera before and after the junction on Barking Road but not at the junction itself.

I went to Newham CCTV offices who told me, it is no good. Even though they would have the footage of the other driver further down Barking road. I would need actual footage of the car accident.

It makes me angry, Newham are quick with CCTV parking tickets, but they don't do much to protect against crime.

I hope you get better soon...

Please don't hate all motorist, I would be mortified if I hit a cyclist. For the peace of mind of both motorist and cyclist we need segregated lanes....

Anonymous said...

Received an email from TfL...

They say ::::

I am writing to both cyclists and drivers to remind them to take care on London’s roads.

Cyclists are reminded to:

-Be aware of blind spots all around large vehicles. It’s often safer to hang back
-Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you
-Not ride through red traffic lights. It’s dangerous and you can be fined £30
-Allow space between you and parked vehicles. Doors may be opened suddenly
-Cycle training courses are available in most London boroughs.

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