In the capital this week, whilst the Met advised commuting bike riders to wear extra bright clothing in case ‘drivers weren’t wearing their glasses‘, a prominent London cyclist carried out a number of erratic moves during an LBC radio interview, which threaten to put his professional life at serious risk of harm. Bare-headed, dressed in a non-reflective dark suit and clearly wearing headphones throughout, he remained oblivious to the heavyweight issues thundering around him whilst he made his risky manoeuvres. He didn’t stop even though there was a red light clearly shining in the recording studio at all times.
I know there isn’t a quick fix to the problem of the many dangers which London’s cyclists face everytime they take to the road.
I know it’s more complex than just a rush-hour HGV ban, or segregated lanes on the cycle super highways.
I know that self-interest and self-preservation are enormously important aspects of urban road-use and that vulnerable road-users need to play their part in reducing the risks presented to themselves.
I also know that repeatedly reducing the debate to one about what the potential victims are wearing is about as big a blunder that the man in charge of realising the potential solutions could make. Frankly, I’m appalled.
The start of a new week did not bring any respite from the current spate of fatal incidents involving cyclists on London’s road. Five deaths between the 5th and 13th of November has left many cyclists in the Capital in a mixed state of fear and anger. The unwelcome news today that a 60 year old man had been killed by in a collision with a lorry in Camberwell has further fuelled the loudening calls for real change. Nine of the fourteen deaths in 2013 have involved HGV’s.
Anger in the cycling community is being directed both at London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, and, more recently, at the police. Johnson, a keen cyclist himself and instigator of London’s communal cycle-hire scheme, is being accused of victim-blaming by highlighting risk-taking cyclists who don’t follow the letter of the law, and of not taking immediate action to address the dangers of large industrial vehicles sharing London’s road network with cyclists. The Metropolitan Police caught the anger of cyclists today after going out in large numbers to stop cyclists during the morning commute and ‘advise’ them to wear helmets and high-vis jackets. The Met were also stopping and speaking with HGV drivers in an aim to give road safety advice to all road-users but again the feeling is that the root cause of the deaths is being ignored.
I wrote about the last spate of deaths back in late June/early July and how it had made me question commuting by bike in London. I felt the same early last week when three people had been killed in just a few days. Tonight though I feel different. I feel as though I need to keep cycling to help get the change needed. I don’t feel like giving up and turning away. One death is too many but this has gone far too far now. The vigils, petitions, protest rides and general shouting about the issue must go on, of course. But, in light of the perceived indifference which greeted last week’s efforts, it’s obvious that much more is needed. Calls for direct action always need to be carefully weighed and balanced but I for one would support Jenny Jones’ suggestion of a month of rush hour Critical Mass gatherings at a prominent junction. And that should just be the beginning. Change is needed. Fast.
Enough is Enough – It’s time to take a real stand.
Apologies for the insensitive title of this post but it is exactly how I feel right now.
I am in Moscow this week and I’m trying to remember the last occasion I was in such a cycling un-friendly city. It’s got me stumped. I have covered a fair few global miles in my time and cannot readily think of a single place – certainly not another capital city – where I would be less inclined to get my bike out and tootle off to see some sights or get in some miles. I spent 4 hours today travelling around the city by car and only saw one solitary rider. And even he was on the pavement. I visited a shopping centre in the outskirts and found a priceless piece of cycling unhelpfulness. Outside the main entrance was a sign with a large ‘P’ and a pictogram of a bike. Nothing to actually lock a bike to. Just the sign.
Moscow’s traffic problems are legendary and have become the main feature of any visit to the city. The transfer from the main airport can easily take up to 3 hours to cover the 26miles by car. It’s currently 3.15pm on a Thursday afternoon and over half the total distance of Moscow’s three inner ring roads (there are 6 in total and two more are planned) are showing solid red on the Google maps traffic indicator. This is before ‘rush hour’ actually starts. Entire days have been added to my trip to allow for the traffic between three points less than 50km apart. People live in constant fear of simply being caught up in the volume of cars on the roads. And then there are the roads themselves…