THE BLOG

London Road Deaths: Boris Johnson Is Missing the Point

10/12/2013 17:50 GMT | Updated 09/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Mayor Boris Johnson criticism of cycle campaigners for frightening people away from cycling was sensibly tempered at the last minute. In his speech, Johnson claimed he wants London to be as famous for cycling as it is for finance, culture and art. And "that means we must make it ever safer and wherever accidents take place we must respond. We must see what could have been done to prevent them."

There are positive moves afoot, with London Councils tightening their London Lorry Control Scheme and the mayor proposing tough fines for non-compliant vehicles and enforcement of mandatory cycle lanes. There are also prototype HGV cabs available with lower windscreens and glass doors to enable more all round vision. These kinds of measures will help improve safety. But we have to question the price in human lives of the epidemic of construction work in central London, causing huge numbers of heavy goods vehicle movements on our streets.

The mayor must also learn from the ALL the crashes that are happening, not just those involving people on bikes.

In November there were thirteen deaths on London's streets: lorries killed three cyclists and three pedestrians, buses killed two cyclists and two pedestrians, one cyclist was killed by a coach and two pedestrians by cars. While the pedestrian deaths are routinely ignored, all the training in the world will not help lorry drivers to stay back from pedestrian blind spots on crossings - since no-one points out they exist.

The Mayor is missing the point, thinking that the issue on London's streets is all about cycling. At the recent TfL-Die-In event, along with friends from Roadpeace I read out the names of people killed on London's Roads, including those in November this year. Some of the crashes were so recent that we had to refer to "pedestrian as yet un-named" in several cases.

From the media coverage you could almost imagine that no pedestrians were killed in November. One crash from 27 November has stuck in my mind referred to at the Die-In as "woman, pedestrian as yet un-named, 99 years, Stockwell".

Today I see that Monique Khalgui, a ninety nine year old "fiercely independent" woman who left Algeria in the 1930s has both a name and a fascinating story.

London is in grave danger of becoming famous not for finance, art, culture and cycling, but rather for road death and injury. We need a radical re-assessment of the purpose of our streets. Are they precious public space valued as places for people travelling by all modes or are we stuck with the computer model driven designs currently coming through the Junction Review process, that prioritises vehicle capacity over the needs of pedestrians and cyclists?

The Mayor claims he wants to "see what could have been done to prevent" these crashes, if this is true, he needs to open his eyes to the risks faced by the most vulnerable visitors and residents moving around London on foot. He must aim for London to be famous for it's people-friendly and liveable streets, where cycling and walking are safe, convenient and a pleasure.