Kings Cross Christmas vigil; 16 deaths too many

16 people have lost their lives riding to work, cycling to college, or going to collect their kids by bicycle in London this year.  16 families are feeling the loss of a brother, a mother, a daughter or a son this Christmas.  16 groups of friends still pull up a spare chair at the pub.  16 everyday and ordinary Londoners are gone - never to return - simply because their choice of personal transport is seen as being "inevitably" dangerous.

Exposure to the sources of road danger can be reduced by safe, equal and well-designed roads.  This is evident in the Netherlands - here in London we are at least twice as likely to die on our roads than our Dutch counterparts.  (Pucher, 2008)

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Young and old alike have protested for equality and safety; hundreds joined the "Tour du Danger"

And yet, despite Transport for London enticing new cyclists on to their roads with glossy advertising campaigns, increased cycle training, copiously splashed blue paint and a PR machine in over-drive, 2011 really has been the year that cyclists took to the streets in protest in London at unfair, unequal and down right dangerous road design.  The message has been clear; training and PR might be enough to encourage new riders on to the road, but it is not enough to keep them safe.

Rallies were held at Blackfriars Bridge, over and over again, culminating in over 2500 Londoners protesting on the bridge.  The Tour du Danger - originally planned as a fact-finding mission between a few friends - saw over 500 people cycling the 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London.  Vigils have been held at Bow roundabout, Kings Cross, on Tower Bridge Road - places where people, often young women, have lost their lives whilst cycling; all at junctions where prior warnings about the safety of these spaces have been ignored outright by Transport for London.

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Thousands have protested on Blackfriars Bridge throughout the year, including London Assembly members of all political persuasions.

TfL is a closed and undemocratic organisation.  They are not used to receiving this level of scrutiny and anger about their plans (which might explain why cycling and walking on so many of our main roads is such a deeply unpleasant experience!)  All of this scrutiny has them rattled - a number of their most senior figures have told me so personally - not, of course, because they want to make changes for the better but out of concern at the prospect of their PR record being blemished.  They and the Mayor have announced a safety review of Bow, the cycle superhighways and major junctions under their care and have then quietly postponed it, in the hope that cyclists will quietly wait (indefinitely?) for the results, which might come out... well, hmmm, some time close to the next Mayoral election perhaps?  Come the new year the annual cycling fatalities metre resets and, in news-speak at least, this year's fatalities become next year's fish and chip paper.  TfL are hoping a Christmas break and the new year will help to quell the tide of anger which is rearing up against them and that cyclists will simply go away.

Meanwhile, where they do want to be seen to do something their plans are woefully inadequate.  They've promised some alterations at the junction on Tower Bridge Road where Ellie Carey was killed, by 2014 at the earliest.  In King's Cross where Min Joo Lee was killed by a tipper lorry they've promised to squeeze in an ASL before the Olympics but had the tenacity to tell Ms Lee's bereaved boyfriend - to his face - that they would not counter installing a safe cycle lane here at this most terrifying of junctions "because it would cause considerable cueus".

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The ghost bike for fashion student Min Joo Lee (Deep Lee) who was killed in a collission with a truck earlier this year near King's Cross station.

It's essential that we continue to build momentum and ensure that this issue stays at the very top of the radar.  In the New Year the London Cycling Campaign will be launching their biggest ever election project with their "Go Dutch" campaign, calling on all Mayoral candidates to promise safe space for cycling on main roads as a priority.

Until then we must not let TfL think that cyclists - and the very real issue of them being killed on our streets - can be easily dismissed.

Next Tuesday, the 20th of December, London Cycling Campaign, supported by me, Danny from Cyclists in the City, the road crash victim's charity Road Peace, and Living Streets, will be holding a Christmas vigil to mark the 16 who have died on bikes in 2011, the many more who have been killed on foot and the countless people who have suffered life-changing injuries.  A large candle-lit memorial will be illuminated as we are joined by friends and family of Brian Dorling, Min Joo Lee, and others as we reflect on an awful year and ask for the Mayor to step up to his responsibilities; to abandon his policy of "smoothing traffic flow", to review the most dangerous junctions as a matter of urgency and to truly make the cycle superhighways super, instead of the lethal compromise they are in their current form.

Meet outside King's Cross station, one of London's most dangerous junctions and the site of the recent death of student Min Joo Lee, from 6PM for a static protest.  By foot or by bicycle, everyone is welcome.  Bring candles, warm clothes, and messages for the Mayor.  See the LCC website for further details.

I hope you can join us for this last protest of 2011, what has been an equally inspiring and heart-breaking year for London cyclists.

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5 comments:

ericonabike2004 said...

Is it time to try to make this a national campaign? I know that you've had support from outside London, but most of the attendees at the protests have, I would guess, come from inside the M25. I'm convinced we could get cyclists down in numbers for a protest on a Saturday if the arguments are well-presented. We're now regularly getting 200+ on the Leicester Critical Mass, for example - bound to be enough willing protesters there to fill one coach, at least! If we can make a difference in London it will act as a spur to other areas in the UK. I believe there is enough solidarity amongst cyclists to make a nationwide, but London-based protest a reality.

ericonabike2004 said...

Is it time to try to make this a national campaign? I know that you've had support from outside London, but most of the attendees at the protests have, I would guess, come from inside the M25. I'm convinced we could get cyclists down in numbers for a protest on a Saturday if the arguments are well-presented. We're now regularly getting 200+ on the Leicester Critical Mass, for example - bound to be enough willing protesters there to fill one coach, at least! If we can make a difference in London it will act as a spur to other areas in the UK. I believe there is enough solidarity amongst cyclists to make a nationwide, but London-based protest a reality.

Rebecca19804 said...

Excellent article Mark. (But I think you mean "TfL had the temerity..." not the tenacity! "Gall" would also be appropriate.)

Puffin Nuffin said...

If TFL want the figures to be reset in January then we shouldn't let them be reset. By my calcs 48 people have been killed whilst cycling in London since Boris was elected Mayor in May 2008. Perhaps this is a figure that should be publicised a little bit more.

Anonymous said...

Well done to all involved in organising the event at Kings Cross last night. It was heart warming that so many came together and paid their respects for the people that have died on our roads this year. I was really disturbed however to hear the woman who spoke on behalf of a bereaved widow, who reported that her husband was killed on that very same corner that Deep Lee died on recently (her husband died 14 years ago). Its absolutely shameful that TfL haven't addressed the situation in all this time. Surely they should be accountable for this continuing negligence and loss of life? Cheryllous