Sadiq Khan must do more to make cycling safer

Thursday, 23rd August 2018

peter-fisher-protest

‘Hundreds of cyclists brought traffic to a standstill in Holborn’

• ON Tuesday evening several hundred cyclists gathered at the main Holborn junction on Kingsway where Dr Peter Fisher, a father of two, was killed by an HGV, (Hundreds of cyclists protest at ‘lack of action’ on road safety after death of Queen’s doctor, August 20).

Yet another devastating loss to family, friends and community. There was a dreadful irony in the fact that Dr Fisher, the eighth person to die while cycling on London’s roads this year, was killed on National Cycle to Work Day.

These protests will need to become more frequent for the final 18 months of mayor Sadiq Khan’s tenure. His ride has been a far too easy one. His complacency and hollow words have gone unchallenged for long enough.

How can these horrific acts of road violence continue? The lethal HGVs are designed for off-road usage. Should they be operating in close proximity to people going about their every day lives?

I’ve been cycling in London since 1987 and I can still struggle to find convenient, safe, accessible routes through the city. Too many one-way rat-runs on back streets and multi-lane, one-way gyratories make navigating too difficult, even to get to the bits of protected cycle lanes that do exist.

Sadiq Khan should be funding willing boroughs and supporting local groups towards making residential roads and back streets “access only”. These relatively simple and effective quick fixes are also inexpensive. There is increasing evidence that this stuff works whether as “Mini-Hollands” or “Liveable Neighbourhoods”.

Just a few years back, before the unabated rise of motor-car domination, many of these areas were just traffic-free-residential areas anyway. So short is our memory. The encroachment onto streets never designed for through-traffic has been a gradual process.

Years of motor-centric thinking pervades the language we use. “Knee-jerk” thinking patterns render positive measures for cycling and walking as “dead ends” for the motorist, rather than the “living streets” they actually become. Where such streets are the norm, the car is a guest. We need more of these.

Further evidence for the cognitive dissonance within Sadiq’s “vision” can be evidenced with the Silvertown Motor Tunnel. The budget for this retrograde project alone would be sufficient to make good Sadiq’s stated aim of “making London a byword for cycling”. There will, of course, be many, many HGV movements involved in this grandiose tunnel vision.

Sadiq has shown more interest in reducing conflict with pro-car groups than reducing conflict between people and cement mixers, skip-trucks, cars and buses.

We need the mayor to stand up for cyclists and pedestrians. Not always easy, but if a progressive borough like Camden struggles to get funding for cycling provision it’s no wonder Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea can get away with doing nothing; and so banning cyclists by stealth from their hostile streets.

From 1997 to 2002, the Netherlands expanded its network of 30kph access roads “access only / “no through-traffic”) from 8,500 km to over 30,000 km. That took five years! Sadiq has one and a half years to go.

Demand for cycling was growing even as he began his tenure. The evidence for providing space for cycling has never been more overwhelming. He could have been leading where the interminable UK government has repeatedly obfuscated and failed.

Sadiq has said he likes the idea of a car-free day. Even that would be something to start the ball rolling. How about August 15 each year in commemoration of Dr Peter Fisher? Make Cycle To Work Day, a car-free day.

In the meantime, it would be something if Sadiq actually did what he said he would do: triple the amount of cycle lanes in London and connect the links to get a safe cycling network in place, so people from eight to 80 or more can cycle, not just to work, but to get around the place, door to door, safely every day.

STEVEN EDWARDS
Campaigns Organiser
Camden Cycling Campaign

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