About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Another cycling death - and still the trucks race through city streets

Five cyclists die in London in 9 days - and three are on a so-called "Cycle Superhighway"
Five cyclists killed in nine days - the latest this morning on the Whitechapel High Street, a stretch of the now-notorious cycle super-highway 2.

They keep saying, the numbers killed on London streets are proportionately lower than ten years ago - but  ten years ago, few cyclists wore crash helmets. And five deaths in one city in nine days is desperate, especially when three of them were on the same so-called "cycle superhighway" between Aldgate and Stratford.

Many factors have been suggested. Last year, when there was a terrible spate of young women cyclists being killed, it was mooted that maybe it was the lack of experience or street confidence that was to blame. Some also cited the recklessness and apparent sense of immortality exhibited by younger gung-ho cyclists. London Mayor Boris Johnson himself called for cyclists to be more alert to danger on the BBC Radio 4 news this evening.

No such excuses hold good for more recent deaths - the 62-year-old hospital porter killed on the Mile End Road last Tuesday, for example, had no chance at all - he was hit from behind and crushed under the truck's front wheel.

The favoured theory is that the poor field of vision of drivers of huge dumper trucks and buses is the big problem. Surely they have angled mirrors to see the curb - or surely they would not be allowed on the road.

I'd add another factor - that so many of their drivers are working under heavy pressure to deliver on time, an appalling imposition for anyone trying to negotiate the hideously crowded streets of greater London. Cycle down Silverthorne Road, Battersea , to the junction with Queenstown Road. You pass on the busiest cement works in London, with a constant stream of massive trucks with those revolving green and yellow mixers on the back. They swarm around these small streets like big fat wasps, in , fill, out again in two minutes flat, no time to stop longer, feeding all those building sites along Nine Elms and further afield.

I've been both a commuting and recreational cyclist in central London since 1978. I've had two accidents involving broken bones - one of which was my fault, the other the fault of a right-turning driver who simply didn't see me and accelerated across my path.

 I've had two incredibly close shaves - once between a converging bus and lorry on Highbury Corner in 1981, the other between a light-jumping refuse truck and steel railing on Lavender Hill in 2010.

I was tempted to write a "how to stay alive" list of advice to cyclists new to London, but I know that quite often you will simply be in a position where there's nothing you can do.

However much care you take to make eye-contact with every driver emerging from side streets or turning left at traffic lights, however good you are anticipating hazards, avoiding danger spots, however careful you are always to use lights and high-vis clothing - there will come a time when someone in a nippy vehicle, on a tight time-schedule, will whip round a corner or between lanes of traffic and you will be in  the way, and in that case, all you can do is pray; you might live and you might die.

No comments:

Post a Comment