11 April 2009
Two die, but cycle lanes get squeezed even more
It's been a sobering week, with two more cyclists killed on London's roads: both women, both crushed by lorries turning left. That brings the total of cycling fatalities in London so far this year to four, compared to nine in all of 2008.
Wednesday's fatality was at the Elephant and Castle; Thursday's, at the junction of Goswell Road and Old Street.
We know the Elephant only too well: a hideous double-whirlpool in south London's traffic ocean, whose dangers are perpetually ignored by politicians. There is a so-called 'cycle by-pass'; but it is badly signposted, counter-intuitive, incomplete, and not remotely satisfactory.
So our blood was boiling last night. The cycle lane at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge has just been reduced to under half its previous width (top right). At the top it has shrunk from 88 inches wide to 34 inches (224cm to 86cm). At the bottom (right) it funnels down to a mere 30 inches (76cm). According to the Department of Transport's design guidelines (Oct 2008, 7.4.2), the minimum recommended width for a cycle lane is 59 inches (150cm).
Worse, though, the lane has changed from a 'mandatory' lane (one traffic must stay out of, marked by a solid line) to an 'advisory' lane (one traffic can go in if it wants, marked by a dashed line).
The photos (right) clearly show the old and new dimensions, and the effect the reduction of width has had: cyclists are now cramped between HGVs and the kerb.
There are roadworks here, which may or may not have something to do with the reduction. If so, the repainting of the lines is a bad solution. There should be far better signage and provision for cyclists; at the moment there is no warning of this confiscation of safe territory. This isn't good enough. And it's dangerously not good enough.
We'd rather be relaxing this Easter weekend than fretting about cycle facilities. But we're chasing this up with TfL of course. In a week when two people were pointlessly killed, simply going about their business on this most gentle, benign and sociable form of urban transport, it seems the most decent way we can turn our anger and sorrow into something positive.