Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cycling in London

A few weeks ago a young man was cycling across London Bridge, in several busy lanes of traffic. He was turning right, so was riding in the far right lane. He clipped the central reservation, lost control of his bicycle, fell into the path of an oncoming car and died instantly. His name was Chris Tandy and he was only 28 years old.

Typical of most people who cycle in London, he was a young professional who lived in Hackney, he cycled regularly and had no doubt experienced lots of 'near-misses' before in his life as a cyclist. But I happen to know that he was a careful, risk-averse person who always wore a helmet, followed the rules of the road and was just very, very unlucky on this one occasion. But you only have to be very, very unlucky once and suddenly there's 200 people in your school chapel sobbing at the futility of your disappearance. And that's what happened to Chris.

Method of travel to work: bicycle. Red indicates greater density of respondents. Source:
Every day I cycle to work along the Whitechapel Road and this week I have seen two cyclists almost get squashed by lorries. In both instances the HGVs couldn't see the cyclists as they pulled in, or turned left with scant warning. No-one was really in the wrong, and in both incidents nothing serious happened. But cyclists are totally vulnerable, we have nothing to protect us from a lorry wheel so the idea that we share space with huge, deadly vehicles with very poor visibility, especially at the low level a cyclist occupies, it completely ludicrous.

Most people are put off cycling in London because they are afraid of death or injury, or just find the whole experience deeply stressful. If it wasn't for the extreme convenience of cycling, those factors would put me off too. It doesn't have to be that way, some very simple design ideas and changes to interchanges would make all the difference. Different solutions would be appropriate indifferent circumstances, but the time has come to stop scapegoating cyclists.

For example, every morning I have to turn right at a huge junction. This involves me sitting in the centre of the junction, a vulnerable unprotected human being, while lorries and buses squeeze past on either side, then racing to turn right ahead of a stream of impatient traffic. A simple solution would be for bicycles to 'proceed with cauthion' and turn at major junctions while pedestrians are crossing. On the very odd occasion when a cyclist proceeded with insufficient caution and bumped into a pedestrian, the worst that would happen would be some injured pride, and perhaps a bruise or two. But death or life changing injuries would not be on the agenda.Similarly Chris Tandy should have been in a dedicated bike lane, separated physically from motorised vehicles. The pavement on London Bridge is very wide, there could easily be a bike lane there.

Bicycles need to be prioritised on London's roads, so we can move forward as a green, cycling city...  the oil won't last forever, it's obvious that the car is unsustainable and we should be world-leading in finding better ways to move about in urban areas.

I am writing this blog entry because I am angry that a young man who I knew and liked has died for absolutely no reason, leaving behind a tragic scene of devastated friends, parents and fiancee. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but if we had decent cycling infrastructure in London, there wouldn't have been wrong time, because he wouldn't have been in the wrong place. Come on people, this needs to be fixed.

Link to the Evening Standard article [tip: don't read the comments]

A nice, thoughtful comment from <>

Not sure where he was. ES article says 'after getting off a train at London Bridge' which suggests he would have been heading North.
However, the photo on their story shows Police vehicles here (google street view link) which is the Southbound carriageway.
Regardless - no separate, safe, cycle facilities in either direction.
Parked cars allowed on southbound carraigeway outside rush hour so heading South you are often push near to central reservation by buses .

If he was heading north (but fell into southbound carriageway at that point) it would seem highly likely he was following cyclecraft, behaving like a car, and taking the lane in order to go straight ahead. Perhaps a fast close pass from behind by a vehicle pushing through angry at him being 'in the middle of the road' causing him to lose control? Suspect the car in question wouldn't even have stopped.
Again saw cars travelling at well in excess of 50mph on a 30mph residential street in South London today (speed sign stops reading at 45). It's a road that's meant to be a backstreet cycle route, part of LCN 25. Exactly what we're going to get as 'Quietways'

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