The large number of cycling deaths in London in recent weeks has really got me thinking.
I’ve been cycling in London for close on 13 years now. I’ve had one accident in that time: a side-on collision from a black cab who sped across my right of way at a junction. He slammed me with his fender, I went up 6 feet in the air and came down on my back. Luckily I didn’t end up 6 feet under. Instead I got taken to A&E, suffering from shock, a fractured ankle and a pretty bruised butt, saved only from a worse injury by the fact that I was wearing a padded back-pack containing my work clothes. I wasn’t wearing a helmet (my bad – took me another 6 years, a lot of pestering from my boyfriend, and my mum sending me dedicated ‘helmet money’ to get one!).
I consider myself a conscientious and able cyclist. Hell yeah, I’ve jumped the odd red light when it’s been completely clear and quiet, I’ve ridden on the pavement, I’ve even worn head phones but I can say hand on heart 9 times out of 10 it’s been other road users such as buses, taxi -cab drivers, heavy goods vans and pedestrians not looking where they are going who have created problems when I’ve been involved in near misses or seen other cyclists get hit.
I think the sheer rise in the number of people cycling in our capital has a lot to do with the rise in accidents. Perhaps the economic climate and the hike in travel fares have driven people on to their bikes, not to mention the introduction of ‘Boris bikes’ in London. But what I think is missing to some degree is road awareness and training – but not just for cyclists. Drivers also need to be made aware. I don’t get on to a bike and blithely ride care-free and whistling. Riding in a traffic-laden city such as London is a serious business.
So what are the solutions? The first image above is from Margie Ruddick’s design for cycle paths in Long Island, NY http://margieruddick.com. The cycle path is separated from up to 14 lanes of traffic! On first glance it might seem an impossible task – fitting something so organic into an existing rigid infrastructure of buildings and roads. It would cause huge upheaval and be costly but surely worth it for what is a beautiful piece of design and creativity and one that ensures safety for cyclists as well as providing a green space for all to enjoy. Most high density cities don’t have the width to allow this kind of project but with mindful planning I think it would be possible in certain areas of London. Compare it to the second image of the so called Cycling Super Highway which to me seems suicidal in it’s design, with on-coming HGV traffic crossing a dedicated cycle path.
If we are to be able to enjoy cycling and more importantly to cycle safely then town planners need to start taking it into serious consideration when mapping out roads and designing our towns and cities.
Somehow a bit of blue paint on the road just doesn’t seem to cut it.