Friday, 13 July 2012

Neil Turner, killed cycling to Oval - start of the Tour du Danger. A tube driver, Mini fan, Millwall supporter, father and soon-to-be husband. An all-round Londoner killed, in my view, on a road designed in a way that makes deaths unavoidable.

Tour du Danger at Oval

Hundreds of people setting off from Oval tube station to protest for safer roads for cycling last year, courtesy @zefrog This is where Neil Turner was cycling to when he was killed on his bike

The Evening Standard has written an incredibly poignant piece about Neil Turner, killed cycling to work in Mitcham on a road where the cycle infrastructure is so scandalously awful, it's really no surprise that people have been seriously injured and now killed here. Ross Lydall's piece talks in heart-felt detail about Neil Turner - born and bred in London, a tube driver, fan of Minis, supporter of Millwall, a father and soon-to-be husband. In short, an all-round Londoner - RIP.

Three things stand out to be about the killing of Neil Turner.

Firstly, the road where he was killed.

As demonstrated by CycleGaz on his blog, the road is designed in a way that exposes people on bikes to maximum possible danger, both from fast-moving overtakes and from people opening car doors. You're meant to cycle along in a narrow bike lane, being squeezed by lethal 'pinch points' (traffic islands to drivers, zones of imminent threat to people on bikes) immediately next to parked cars. If this road was in New York or Rotterdam, the bike lane would be INSIDE the parked cars, not outside. 

Mitcham Road killer cycle lane - Courtesy CycleGaz
This bike lane should be INSIDE the parked cars,
not the other way round, inside the 'door zone'
Second point, the total lack of funding from the Mayor:

Transport for London knows this road is dangerous, as does Croydon Council. What's the council going to do about it? Well, not a lot. Boris has given the council a few hundred thousand pounds to spend on cycling over the next three years. So the council will build some bike parking. Fat lot of use that will be to help people actually make safe and easy journeys by bike. And literally 'chicken feed' from the Mayor for Croydon's bike infrastructure.

And the third point is that Neil was cycling to work at Oval tube station, one of the most dangerous junctions in London if you're on a bike 

It is precisely at Oval tube station that hundreds of us gathered last winter for the Tour du Danger - a ride around the most dangerous junctions in central London in order to give a clear message to the Mayor that we can't avoid intimidating and dangerous junctions like this and to say: We don't want to be casualties casualties of a systemic, killer culture of laissez-faire at Transport for London that completely ignores people on bikes. Oval junction is one of the most dangerous junctions for people to cycle through in London and we wanted to mark it as a place that needs to change, to make it safe for people to cycle through, not just drive through.

Yet London still seems to be limping around, trying to work out whether or not to make cycling safer. The evidence around the London Olympics is that nothing is being done to make cycling part of the mix yet. I think the chief executive of Sustrans put it extremely well earlier this week when he talked about Google's new online bicycling maps. As he put it: "Google has given cycling equal status to driving and using public transport – we need our politicians and local councils to do the same."

Neil Turner, tube driver, Mini & Millwall fan, father, Londoner
RIP. Courtesy Evening Standard

The facts are pretty simple. Serious injuries of pedestrians and cyclists in London rose dramatically last year. The number of people killed cycling also rose dramatically last year. By all accounts, it looks like the number of people being killed on bikes will be higher yet again this year. And the Mayor is still saying that everything's fine, you just need to 'keep your wits about you'. My bet is that Neil was keeping his wits about him. But he wouldn't have stood a chance on a road like this, designed to put him in the most vulnerable position possible.

The wife of Brian Dorling, killed last year at Bow roundabout made this point: "Whoever designed the superhighway on that roundabout is completely negligent."

It shouldn't be like this. We have world-class roads and motorways and we have skilled and hard-working road engineers behind them. But the money and the design is only for motor vehicles. People on bikes are expected to somehow fling themselves down roads like this and survive.

It's not good enough. It's time we had world-class routes for people to use on bikes, instead of exposing them quite deliberately to fast-moving, intimidating roads where the likelihood of being injured is TEN-TIMES higher per mile cycled than it is in countries like the Netherlands.

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