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More needed to keep cyclists safe on major roads
Monday, 17 December 2012
CYCLING campaigners have warned that Transport for London (TfL) is still not doing enough to keep them safe on the streets but insisted that the future for cycling in South London is still bright.
The activists had warm words for their councils' efforts to improve safety for cyclists but said that the most dangerous roads and junctions were on roads run by TfL and these remain hazardous.
Alex Crawford, the co-ordinator for the Southwark Cyclists group, said: “TfL is the problem. We can work as hard as we like on council roads but it’s TfL roads that are the dangerous ones.
“It concerns me because we haven’t seen the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson really do anything to help prevent death on the roads.”
Clare Neely, from Lambeth Cyclists, agreed. She said: “The roads where I don't feel safe are the ones managed by TfL. Until they pull their finger out even people who are as experienced as I am are not going to feel safe.”
These sentiments are borne out by the evidence. Last year, TfL listed the 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists and five were in the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.
Places like Vauxhall Cross and the Elephant & Castle roundabout constantly crop up as major concerns for cyclists in South London.
TfL's own statistics show that casualties on bikes have increased since Boris Johnson became mayor. Between 2005 and 2009 there was an average of 420 cyclists killed or injured a year, but this number had increased to 467 in 2010 and 571 last year.
At Elephant & Castle alone there was an average of one road accident leading to a casualty every 12 days between 2008 and 2010, including a total of 36 cyclists injured.
But according to cyclists, TfL and Boris Johnson have offered little more than soundbites.
When asked about Elephant & Castle in particular, the mayor said that cycling through the roundabout was “fine, if you keep your wits about you”.
Charlie Holland, who trains drivers and schoolchildren in cycle safety and writes the Kennington People On Bikes blog, said: “Boris said he would make Vauxhall, Battersea and Nine Elms better than Amsterdam but he has failed to deliver any quality infrastructure. It's just been a superficial veneer.”
Darren Johnson, a Lewisham Councillor and Green Party member of the London Assembly, said: “At the moment we have a lot of rhetoric from the mayor but we don’t really see the day-to-day commitment to cycling.”
Again and again, cyclists pointed to TfL's insistence on not impeding traffic as the thing that was holding back improvements in safety.
Clare Neely said: “We keep coming up against TfL’s obsession, and you have to call it an obsession, with maintaining capacity for people driving.”
Charlie Holland agreed, adding: “The problem with Boris is that he is intent on maintaining an equality of traffic. He is wedded to the notion that all the traffic in central London needs to be there.”
Mr Johnson, who is a member of the London Assembly's transport committee, said: “His obsession with smoothing traffic flow has been at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians.
“Cycling is a major transport issue for London – it can't just be dismissed as a minority pursuit.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “TfL has long been working towards improving the difficult conditions at Elephant & Castle and we have a large scale plan in place to alter the road layout in this area.”
The transport authority also pointed towards the mayor's flagship Cycle Superhighways as evidence of TfL's commitment to improving cycle safety. A proposal for a new superhighway running from New Cross to Victoria was opened to consultation earlier this week.
Alex Crawford, from Southwark Cyclists, said it was vital that people to act now on the new Superhighway to make sure it was fit for purpose.
“It's really important that people comment on the consultation,” she said. “The superhighway doesn't have to be just a blue line on the road.”
Despite the frustrations, cycle activists in South London remain optimistic, especially in their dealings with councils.
“Earlier this year we formed a steering group with the council to collaborate for the first time. I have actually been really impressed with Councillor Barrie Hargrove, who cycles himself.
“There is still so much to be done but when you look back to where we were two years ago, it's nothing like it used to be. We are very optimistic.”
Cllr Hargrove, Southwark council's cabinet member for transport, said: “We’re trying to create more safe cycling routes off the main roads so people can cycle with more confidence.
“We are keen that more people take up cycling, but also keen that people can cycle safely.”
With councils on their side and more and more people taking to two-wheeled transport, cyclists in South London are looking to the future with definite optimism.
“I would hope that in the coming years there are eight-year-olds cycling happily over Vauxhall Bridge and everyone is content that this is a safe thing to do,” said Charlie Holland. “Around the world there is a recognition of the real value of cycling in the city,” he added. “Why wouldn't you make it as easy as riding a bike?”
All content © of South London Press unless stated otherwise.
Comments on this news item:
1 comments on this news item
Posted by : watson, Catford | Thursday 20/Dec/2012 | Report this comment
I’m all for the support of cyclists, they need good protection on our roads. The problem I have with some cyclists, is the arrogance they show toward vehicles at times. Some cyclist tend to forget that bones and flesh are no match for steel. Too many of them ride the pavement, ignore traffic lights, cut in front of vehicles etc. They must respect the fact that vehicles also have a right...!!!
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