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Spate of Cycle Deaths in London Sparks Safety Action

London is reevaluating its cycling policy following a spate of deaths of bikers on its roads, despite a new cycle "superhighway" being constructed.

There have been a total of 14 deaths this year, already equalling the total for 2012 - but six have occurred in the last two weeks after a man in his 60s was killed on Camberwell Road in southeast London at around noon yesterday by a collision with a lorry.

The English government's cycling policy is already under question and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) believs that many people in London are put off cycling because of these deaths. Its chief executive Ashog Sinha said that, although Mayor Boris Johnson deserved praise for the progress he had made on cycle safety, more radical action was necessary.

"Nobody in our organisation has seen anything like this number of deaths in such a short space of time," Sinha said. "We cannot remember the like of it and it brings the issue into focus. Junctions are where most deaths occur but we are told there's a limit to what can be done because of traffic flow. It's long since overdue for that attitude to change.

"We appreciate that things take time but at least we can have a plan. That's why we are getting so many deaths. Boris needs to say he will do whatever it takes to make the roads safe for cyclists."

Johnson, a biking commuter himself, has drawn ire for blaming cyclists themselves for accidents by taking too many risks. He said they should "think of the laws of the road".

Johnson did sound more conciliatory after the fifth fatality last week. "Any death on London's roads is a tragedy and my thoughts are with the families and friends of the cyclists who have lost their lives," he said. "In the past decade, the number of cyclists in the capital has almost trebled and it is absolutely vital that we continue to invest huge sums of money into improving cycling infrastructure and making it as safe as possible.

"More work is under way and, although changes cannot be made instantly, they are being done as quickly as possible. This is, and remains, an absolute priority for me, my team and TfL."

Transport for London, known as TfL, is the body responsible for London's road network, but Sinha says they are part of the problem for resisting calls for Continental-style safety measures.

Cyclists from Holland, well-known for the popularity of cycling and ts bike culture, when visiting and cycling in London are often shocked by how risky it can be. Part of the problem is that while in Holland many cyclists also drive and vice versa, this pattern is not reflected in England.

But Johnson has announced that TfL will be recruiting up to 128 more staff to deliver a cycling programme. Traffic engineers, scheme designers and traffic modellers will all be sought.

TfL has also taken the unusual step of publishing a video, shown below, showing bikers how to navigate the Bow roundabout where two cyclists have been killed on a bike lane.

Transport for London has, furthermore, in the last few days unveiled a new design of junction to boost cycling safety. Its new junction design at the busy Blackfriars intersection aims to eliminate conflict between cyclists and left-turning traffic. 

Cycling junction

Traffic lanes will be converted to cycle lanes on Blackfriars Road for a new north-south cycle route across central London.

The new junction design aims to eliminate conflicts between cyclists and left-turning traffic – a common cause of accidents – and features fully-segregated approaches for cyclists and cycle-specific traffic signals (see top image).

Left-turning cyclists and general traffic will receive a green light at different times. When cyclists have a green light to go straight ahead or turn left, general traffic will only have a green light to travel straight ahead or turn right.

Safe cycle route LondonWhen general traffic is given permission to turn left, the cycle traffic would have a red light. Cyclists will be unable to turn right at these junctions.

The Deprtment for Transport has also granted TfL permission to trial cycle-specific traffic signals. Currently, cycle logos cannot generally be displayed on the red light of a signal head. TfL says allowing the logo on red signals will give all road users greater clarity that the traffic signal is exclusively for cyclists.

A spokesman said the new signals had just been implemented on the Bow roundabout where 'early start' signals give cyclists a headstart over general traffic.