The Independent London Newspaper

Give people priority on roads

Cllr Catherine West

Islington is due   to get a cycle superhighway soon. Its arrival means safety measures must  go beyond painting ‘blue bands’ on our streets, says Catherine West

Published: November 4, 2011

THE Tribune’s photo gallery of female cyclists killed in the last five years (October 7), and the ghost bike that now marks the spot at King’s Cross where Deep Lee tragically died, both serve as a sobering reminder of the dangers cyclists face on our roads.

This can’t be allowed to continue. Fewer people own cars in Islington than anywhere else in London, so anything that hurts cyclists, pedestrians or commuters hits our borough particularly hard. I’m on the side of our community and want to see our roads made safer, but whether it be City Hall or Downing Street, the Conservatives seem to have a tunnel focus on motorists that is only making things worse.

Along with groups like London Cycling Campaign, I spent this summer lobbying the government to abandon plans to allow longer lorries on our roads. They’re a danger to cyclists and pedestrians and risk even more accidents, because when lorries get longer the trailer swings out
wider in the driver’s blind spot.

But the government wouldn’t listen. Despite our pleas, they’ve just agreed a ten-year pilot of longer lorries, starting in January. How is this going to make our roads safer? 

I fear the Conservatives are more concerned about winning the single vote of Jeremy Clarkson than they are about ordinary people. Their latest ill-thought-out idea is a new 80mph speed limit, which even Parliament’s own Advisory Committee on Transport Safety says would increase casualties by between five per cent and ten per cent. Higher speed also means more pollution. What happened to the pledge to be the “greenest government” ever? 

Here in London, we’re seeing more people turning to cycling to escape the Conservative Mayor’s inflation-busting fare rises. A single bus fare has risen by a staggering 56 per cent under Boris Johnson, and anyone with a weekly zone 1-2 Travelcard is shelling out almost £300 more each year.

Mr Johnson needs to get a grip on his day job and take action to keep these new, and often inexperienced, cyclists safe. Take the dangerous King’s Cross gyratory where Deep Lee lost her life. Transport for London (TfL) was warned back in 2008 that “casualties were inevitable” at the junction of Gray’s Inn Road, York Way and Pentonville Road. Yet three years on nothing has changed. The Conservative Mayor controls TfL. Where has he been and why isn’t he standing up for people’s safety?

Or take the £10million blue-painted lanes that have sprung up across the capital as part of his grand cycle super­highway scheme. They might be decorative but where’s the substance? Painting “blue bands” without allocating extra road space doesn’t provide the protection that an advisory or mandatory cycle lane would. 

That’s why I’ve written to TfL to urge that cycle superhighway 12, which will run through Islington’s A1 after the Olympics, does a lot more.

I want to see the dangerous Archway gyratory removed, trixi mirrors at all junctions where left-turning vehicles can threaten cyclists and cycle symbols in bus lanes so cyclists position themselves correctly and can move more easily into the general lane of traffic.

Too many cyclists are dying on our roads each year. People have to become the priority.

• Councillor Catherine West is Labour leader of Islington Council and chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee.

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