Cyclist deaths: Defiant Boris Johnson defends TfL, and says “Lorry drivers to blame”

Thursday, 17th November 2011

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Published: 17 November 2011
by TOM FOOT

BORIS Johnson claims Transport for London (TfL) has been unfairly criticised over cycle safety.

The Mayor of London told a debate at City Hall that he felt a personal weight of responsibility every time a cyclist was killed on the capital's roads.

He said cycling campaigners should direct their anger towards lorry drivers rather than TfL, which answers to him.

Mr Johnson was speaking last Wednesday as anger grew over the soaring number of cyclists killed this year in London.

The problem has been underlined by the death of several women in the south of Camden and Islington in recent years, particularly in King’s Cross.

Fashion student Deep Lee, 24, died at a junction near the “Lighthouse” building in York Way last month – a spot which had been earmarked for safety improvements.

Mr Johnson said: “I’m the Mayor who makes a big thing about cycling, and goes on and on about how wonderful our bike hire scheme is. So it really worries me when I read about cycling accidents  and grieves me sometimes to see the way that TfL is blamed.

“But sometimes I don’t think interventions, that physical street works are the answer. The answer is very often to educate HGV (heavy goods vehicle) drivers and cyclists.

“Since HGVs are so much the problem, as are tipper trucks and cement mixers, there is a case I think for asking them to install side bars running up the flank of the vehicle between the wheels.

Because if you get hit by a bus, you won’t receive these appalling injuries, you won’t be dragged underneath in this way.”

Mr Johnson was quizzed about his safety record by London Assembly members responding to a campaign to address the busy King’s Cross junction where Ms Lee, also known as Min Joo Lee, died.

Mr Johnson added: “If we can do anything to ameliorate the junction, and if that would really address the problem, then of course we will look at it.”

Green Party assembly member Jenny Jones said Mr Johnson had failed to act on recommendations made in a report in 2008 that would have made the King’s Cross junction safe. This was revealed in a New Journal investigation in the days after Ms Lee's death.

Mr Johnson replied: “Cycling is getting safer when you consider the number of people on the road. What we need to do is make it safer.”

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, said: “The harsh fact is that 14 cyclists have already died on London’s roads this year compared to 10 last year.

“These figures speak for themselves about the need for urgent action.

“A complete review of London’s most dangerous junctions is desperately needed.”

Mr Johnson introduced the “Boris Bikes” hire scheme across London last year. Critics say it encourages pedestrians to jump on to bikes and ride around central London without a helmet on.

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