A letter to Lyn Brown MP

The Times Newspaper has today launched its Cities Fit for Cycling campaign, calling for our streets to be made safer for all road users. I don’t agree with some of their points, and I think some don’t go far enough (yes, I know, my middle names are Ungrateful and Never-Satisfied), but it’s a start. The campaign is outside The Times’ firewall. I urge you to go and read it and sign up.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to my MP Lyn Brown today. Bow Interchange marks the western boundary of her constituency, which is partly why I keep banging on about it. Also I have to cycle through it twice a day and it scares me witless.

As a constituent who commutes by bike from Stratford to Green Park most days, I urge you to support The Times newspaper’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign, and to urge the Mayor of London and the Minister for Roads to take notice of the deaths and serious injuries taking place on roads they control.

There is nothing that would make me feel safer on London’s roads than properly thought-out, segregated cycling infrastructure. Blue paint costing between two and four million pounds per mile, four times as much as New York’s recent (and much better) scheme, does nothing to reduce accidents; and has made road safety worse at Bow Interchange.

Only investment in real infrastructure will make a difference. The changes happening on this city’s roads may well “smooth traffic flow”, but they are both objectively and subjectively dangerous for vulnerable road users, and relegate cyclists and pedestrians to a poor second and third place behind cars and lorries.

It is not right that the Mayor of London is deliberately endangering your constituents by this policy, which is shortening pedestrian crossing times, removing pedestrian crossings altogether, and refusing to put them in at Bow Interchange despite consultants’ reports saying they were necessary, because it would “introduce significant delays to traffic.” That junction is so dangerous that vulnerable road users, such as the elderly, those with small children, and the disabled, take the bus one stop to avoid having to negotiate sixteen lanes of speeding traffic on foot.

Sadly, this is not really an option for cyclists, which is why two people were killed at Bow in the space of three weeks in the latter part of last year.

Having vulnerable road users deliberately placed in a position of danger as they share the road with vehicles weighing many tonnes is a recipe for disaster. All it takes is a moment of inattention from a lorry driver and the cyclist suffers catastrophic injuries which, if not immediately fatal, are devastating and life-changing, leading to months in hospital and permanent disability.

The Times’ eight-point manifesto is:

1. Trucks entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.

2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.

3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.

4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.

5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.

6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.

7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.

8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

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