The issue of cyclist safety has suddenly seemed to have shifted up a gear in the aftermath of the six, tragic cycling fatalities in London during a two week period in November. But the launch of Operation Safeway which, according to a BBC news report, has seen police fine a total of 755 cyclists for speeding has not been well received by the cycling community who feel they have been unfairly targeted.
Since November 18th, when the sixth cycling accident occurred, police have been positioned at 166 key junctions in the central London area with the aim of issuing fixed-penalty notices to any vehicle driver who is seen breaking road traffic laws, and to provide cyclists with safety advice. It has been reported that the operation is to continue for four months, and police have been told to issue ten speeding penalty tickets to cyclists each month, according to the BBC.
Cyclists feel unjustly victimised
It’s understandable that cyclists may feel unjustly victimised when motorists, and especially HGV drivers, continue to drive in ways that are dangerous to cyclists. There are still continuing dangers from the driving behaviour of the motorist and the HGV driver, in particular. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), “Every year in this country, around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents, including around 3,000 who are killed or seriously injured”. Transport for London (TfL) has found that drivers working in the construction industry were responsible for “the disproportionately high number of cyclists killed by its lorries.”
Often bicycle accidents claims will show a high incidence of HGVs turning left or overtaking across the path of a cyclist, specifically at junctions, where more than 60 per cent of collisions occur. While a number of local authorities and HGV firms and have been working to increase driver awareness, considering safety cameras or a delivery time policy, the numbers of cycling casualties continue to rise.
Recent Transport for London figures show that cyclist fatalities rose by 10 per cent from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012, with serious injuries increasing for the eighth consecutive year, by 4 per cent to 3,222. Yet TfL also say that long term trends suggest roads were less dangerous when they compare the 82 cyclist deaths between 2003 and 2007 with the 68 deaths, 2008-2012.
Number of cycling schemes planned
A further factor to be taken into account is the research, which reveals that in just 12 months, nearly a third more cyclists are now present on UK roads. In London the number of cyclists has nearly doubled in just over a decade from 290,000 in 2001 to 570,000 in 2012. Clearly, if the government wishes to increase cycling on Britain’s busy capital roads then the issue of safety has never been more crucial.
There are a number of schemes being planned, most notably the government’s £107 million investment into a ten year programme to improve cycling infrastructure.
Currently, the Transport Commissioner for London, Sir Peter Hendy, is lobbying the EU and UN to authorise a new type of lorry designed to give a clearer view of the road in front of the driver’s cab and on the near-side of the vehicle.
Early start signal at traffic lights
London Mayor Boris Johnson, has just announced at a Cycling Summit at City Hall, plans to upgrade 33 road junctions and create “Quiet Ways” where cyclists can travel in Zone 1 backstreets while Robert Goodwill, the minister responsible for cycling, recently gave Cambridgeshire County Council permission to trial an early-start signal, which will allow cyclists priority at traffic lights.
Apart from allowing cyclists to move away from traffic earlier, a real benefit will be the ‘temporary’ segregation of cyclists from left-turning traffic and an additional safety support to advance stop lines of the “cyclists’ box” at increasing numbers of major crossings.
However, even where some of these measures have been trialled, such as the Bow Roundabout in East London, fatalities have not been avoided. It was here that one of the six cyclists was fatally injured by a lorry in November.
Many cyclists feel urgent action needs to be taken immediately to address issues, such as the inadequacy of the Cycle Superhighways – seen as little more than blue paint on the road – and properly segregating cyclists from all other traffic.