Sam Jones, Matthew Weaver, Peter Walker and Patrick Wintour
theguardian.com, Thursday 14 November 2013 07.47 EST
Source: The Guardian
Boris Johnson has shrugged off calls for an urgent review of cycling safety inLondon after a man killed on Wednesday night became the fifth cyclist to die in the capital in nine days. The London mayor said that unless people obeyed the laws of the road, “there’s no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people’s lives”.
The unnamed man – the 13th cyclist to die on London’s streets this year – was hit by a bus at around 11.30pm on Wednesday evening near Aldgate East station at a junction of Whitechapel Road, on one of the city’s controversial cycle superhighways.
He was treated on the roadside by ambulance paramedics but died in hospital at around 4am, according to Scotland Yard.
The driver of the 205 bus involved in the accident was treated for shock at the scene. No one was arrested. Inquiries are under way to contact the cyclist’s family.
Discussing the deaths in a radio interview on Thursday morning, Johnson said that while there could be “no question of blame or finger-pointing”, cyclists had a duty to obey the laws of the road and heed signals.
“Some of the cases that we’ve seen in the last few days really make your heart bleed because you can see that people have taken decisions that really did put their lives in danger,” he told Nick Ferrari on LBC 97.3.
“You cannot blame the victim in these circumstances. But what you can say is that when people make decisions on the road that are very risky – jumping red lights, moving across fast-moving traffic in a way that is completely unexpected and without looking to see what traffic is doing – it’s very difficult for the traffic engineers to second-guess that.”
The London assembly member Darren Johnson, of the Green party, accused the mayor of “dodging responsibility” for the recent deaths and trying to blame cyclists.
“Four out of the five deaths of cyclists in the last nine days have involved either his blue paint or his red buses,” said Johnson, in a reference to the blue-painted cycle superhighways.
“The mayor’s comments this morning which targeted cyclists breaking the law as the primary cause of death and serious injury is an attempt to blame the victims, rather than tackling the real problem of HGVs, buses and dangerous junctions.”
He added: “It is an insult to the dead and injured that the mayor continues to blame victims in this way, rather than accepting his responsibility and getting on with fixing the things he has direct control over.”
The string of recent deaths has prompted the former Labour transport secretary Andrew Adonis to call for action.
“The mayor should appoint a rapid independent review of superhighways after the horror of all these cyclist deaths in London,” he said in a tweet.
Adonis’s call was echoed by Martin Key, campaigns director for British Cycling, the national governing body for cycling.
“The fact that five cyclists have been killed in London in the last nine days is shocking news and an urgent investigation needs to take place into what could have been done to prevent these deaths,” he said.
Key said that local authorities needed to acknowledge the growing popularity of cycling and do more to protect people on bikes by tackling dangerous roads and junctions and banning HGVs that lack up-to-date safety features.
“We have to do a better job of looking after each other on the roads,” he said. “That includes significant investment in a nationwide cyclist awareness campaign rather than a few posters in a handful of cities. This is about changing the culture of how people get around, making cycling a more attractive and safer option for millions of people across Britain.”
Gordon Seabright, the chief executive of the national cycling charity CTC, said it was “sickened” by the lack of action on protecting cyclists from lorries, adding: “We want to see the mayor of London and all those responsible for the safety of our streets living up to their promises.”
The mayor’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, counselled against a hasty reaction to the “extraordinary” spate of cyclist deaths. “The danger in the current atmosphere of understandable alarm and concern is that we rush into some panic measure which actually makes things worse,” he told BBC London.
However, he also criticised the east-west superhighway known as CS2, where three cyclists have been killed since 2011. “From the beginning, Superhighway 2 has been little more than blue paint and I’ve been pressing to change it,” he said.
Gilligan added that plans to upgrade all the superhighway routes would go out to consultation in four months’ time, and that it would take a further 11 months for any changes to be implemented.
Last month the coroner Mary Hassall ordered a safety review of the blue lane system after conducting inquests into the deaths of two cyclists killed on CS2.
The latest death comes within 24 hours of a female cyclist being crushed to death by a lorry near Bow roundabout. The woman, named by police as Venera Minakhmetova, a 24-year-old Russian who was living in Bethnal Green, was pronounced dead just before 9am on Wednesday.
Another cyclist suffered life-threatening injuries a few minutes later when he was involved in a collision with a lorry in central London.
A man in his 40s died in hospital on Tuesday afternoon just over an hour after an incident with a bus outside East Croydon train station.
Last week, two cyclists were involved in fatal accidents in Holborn and Mile End. Francis Golding, who was 69, died in St Mary’s hospital on 8 November – three days after his bike was in a collision with a coach at the junction of Southampton Row and Theobald’s Road in Holborn.
The other cyclist, who is believed to have been 62, was killed in an incident with a tipper lorry on the junction of Mile End Road and Bancroft Road in east London.
Police are appealing for information or witnesses to the latest collisions.