Monday, 18 November 2013

Hit and Run: Time to Make London's Streets Safer

The tragedies of the five cyclists who lost their lives last week weigh heavily in my heart.  Like so many who travel around London on two-wheels, I am frustrated by the lack of safe road design for cyclists’ and the lack of urgency and action by the Mayor of London to act on this issue.

In the same week as those cyclists’ lost their lives, I was bullied off the road by a taxi driver and nearly hit by a private bus whose driver failed to stop at a junction and check if traffic was passing before pulling out. I encounter experiences like these on my ride to and from work and I know full well that other cyclists encounter similar near misses

Everyday I cycle I have the niggling thought that I could be injured due to circumstances beyond my control. In a morbid way I have been mentally preparing that I may one day be involved in a collision of some sort. It has always felt inevitable.

Last month that niggling thought became a reality when a speeding Range Rover driver in oncoming traffic took a right turn into me when heading north onto Gordon Square. The driver simply failed to stop to wait for me to pass before taking the turn. I was left lying in the middle of the road shocked and helpless watching the Range Rover speeding away from the scene.

My injured right side caused by an irresponsible motorist and poor road design

If I hadn’t have impulsively turned my handlebars left, I would certainly have been flung over the Range Rover. Instead, the right side of my body took the blow. My mobility in the weeks after was somewhat restricted and I had severe internal and external bruising and swelling. Even now, 6 weeks on I still can’t lie on my right side nor apply any pressure on the area without feeling pain.

Gordon Square (Source)
Unfortunately, it's of no surprise that the collision happened by Gordon Square near Torrington/Tavistock Place. A popular central cycle way connecting east to west, this segregated path has being lobbied by LCC Camden Cyclists as a ‘victim of it’s own success’ and has been renamed in bike forums as the Lane of Death’.

I cycle the Lane of Death everyday and I am all too familiar with its design flaws affecting all types of road users. It was only a matter of time that I became a victim of its glaring inadequacies and the dangerous driving of an irresponsible, senseless motorist.

In the days after it made me think about the amount of times I have been told by friends and colleagues to ‘ride safely!’ But no matter how safe and responsibly I cycle, collisions like the one I was involved in are completely out of my own control. The responsibility of travelling safely seems to always be deflected from motorists’ onto cyclists when in fact one can have no control over the reckless actions of others like the Range Rover driver who collided with me. Nor can one have control over the surrounding road design, which may have been a contributing factor to the cause of the collision. For this very reason, vulnerable cyclists need to be protected by adequate infrastructure and motorists need to be held accountable for their actions.

I don’t feel proud to live in London and in a society which makes me feel that in some twisted distorted way that by being injured in a collision I have ‘paid my dues’ just for choosing to cycle. I feel like I have been punished for the method of transport I have chosen and that I deserve what I am given. The prejudice and abuse of cyclists on the roads and social media is endemic and needs to stop.  

It is astounding that cyclists are still having to argue for safer roads.  I have to wonder how many more people need to die before our voices will be heard.  The Mayor of London needs to start listening and acting immediately. I am backing the London Cycling Campaign to urge the Mayor to take positive action to improve cycling infrastructure of well-known killer junctions. I encourage anyone who wants to live in a safer, healthier and happier city to do the same.

Please support the campaign and write to the Mayor of London here.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are back blogging, but sorry its under such circumstances...

Anonymous said...

Ouch, looks and sounds horrible. Here's to your recovery and to the Mayor changing his stance of victim blaming.

Wedge said...

Thank you for the advice - I have begun Borissing from Euston using this lane as part of my route with one near miss with a Taxi this week. Had no idea how dangerous the lane was.
Hope you feel better soon, hit and run is criminal.
We do need an attitude change - hard to create, I feel the only way is for the balance of evidence to be shifted - if a motor vehicle hits a vunerable road user they need to be able to show it was not their fault, that to me is what is meant by a duty of care when driving tons of metal.
Brilliant blog BTW

Commuterjohn said...

That certainly is a bruise!
The need to keep some space to take avoiding action like you did can never be overstated.
Keeping in your mind the fact that I may have the right of way but that must be given up in a split second by some lunatics action is a must to keeping safe.
The cycle lanes that unwittingly drop you in the middle of a dangerous junction are the worst. It would have been safer to take an alternative route to avoid it altogether.
Your not safe walking on the pavement any more so keep alert and happy cycling!
Nice to see an article again from you, hope the next one is about a happier outing!
Commuter John.

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