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The deadly junctions threatening safety for London’s cyclists

Cycle path intersects road at St.Pauls, London. Image: Chris Janes.

Research has revealed that 75 per cent of cycling fatalities occur at junctions and crossings between motor vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians.

This is a worrying statistic for London’s cyclists because the number of these junctions has increased massively over the last five years.

And there are now peak periods where the the cyclists entering and leaving these junctions represent 70 per cent of all road users.

This trend is taking place in a capital city where cycling is more popular year on year.

City roads are being changed to accomodate cyclists and drivers, but does this represent a new danger to cyclists?

Following the relatively sudden increase in cycling around London there have been significant changes in road infrastructure to create safer routes for cyclists.

The redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle gyratory, the Embankment cycle path and Cycle Superhighway at Whitechapel are examples. 

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Often these changes come at the expense of space for motor vehicles or pedestrians, forcing motor vehicles to share less space and increasing crossings and junctions with cycle lanes.

On routes where no cycle lane has been built, cyclists frequently share the road with faster and heavier motor vehilces.

Cycle lane junction merges motor vehicles and cyclists together. Image: Chris Janes.

A study by TfL in 2000 showed that in London Zone One, roughly 9% of all vehicles on the road were bicycles.

The same study carried out in 2014 showed that around 32% of all Zone One vehicles were bicycles.

At peak times, the same study showed this figure rose to 70% on some roads.

Whilst the move to support a greener method of travel can only be a good thing for the environment and public health, these mass interactions with roads and footpaths is changing how people feel on London’s streets.

Pedestrian Londener Will explains:

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Whilst there is widespread support for cycle lanes in London, there is also common feeling that a few irresponsible cyclists are needlessly causing dangerous situations.

Some use the current lack of legislation to skip red lights, cycle the wrong way down roads, on pavements and pedestrian crossings with little or no repurcusions.

In just ten minutes walking around St.Pauls we witnessed five cyclists skipping red lights. 

Cyclist skips red light and merges into moving traffic. Image: Chris Janes.

Cyclists see this differently.

There is no definition for cyclists on the road, as they are not a class of motor vehicle nor are they pedestrians.

Confusion over their status means that often cycle routes are ‘lumped in’ with existing routes for motor vehicles and pedestrians.

Bicycles are considerably faster than pedestrians and much slower than motor vehicles, so its often not safe to share with either category.

Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman said he doesn’t ride in London because he doesn’t feel safe.

This view is mirrored by many London cyclists sharing the road with much larger vehicles.

As well as the increased speed and mass of motor vehicles, some drivers intentionally use their vehicles to intimidate and scare cyclists.

Ex-Cyclist Rosie, from New Cross, explains the reasons she has decided not to cycle in London:

A European Commission report published in 2005 showed that out of around 400 pedestrian deaths a year on UK roads, only 1 or 2 involved a cyclist.

In 2016, the ROSPA (ROyal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) published a report showing that 84% of cyclist deaths involved collisions with motor vehicles.

This shows that motor vehicles pose the greatest risk to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

The ROSPA report went on to show that 75% of fatalities occurred at junctions and crossings between motor vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians.

Perhaps these figures result from the trend in drivers frustrations towards cyclists, or maybe cyclists and pedestrians need further training on how to share the road with drivers.

Compared to the total amount of cyclists using the road and cycle network in London, the amount of fatalities is low, recorded at 8 fatalities in 2016 according to TfL.

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