Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Top 10 dangerous junctions for cycling in London - and TfL's complete denial of reality. It needs to build safer junctions instead of fobbing us off with whitewash

Transport for London releases information about the fatalities on its roads.

One such fatality was Min Joo Lee, a student killed at Kings Cross - scene of multiple recent collisions where cyclists have been killed by HGVs. The Kings Cross Local Environment blog described what happened: "A young woman cyclist on her second day of term at CSM was brutally mown down by a lorry at the York Way,Pentonville Road junction complex.  This excellent un-nerving post by Olaf Storbeck over at Cycling Intelligence covers it from a cyclist perspective, The Guardian also covers it. TfL is well used to cyclists being killed at its badly designed junctions."

Kings Cross Local Environment is following the case. More specifically, the authors of the blog are preparing to consider raising a case of corporate manslaughter against Transport for London at this particular junction. They have my complete support.

Earlier this week, I saw a copy of Transport for London's fatalities spreadsheet. The case of Joo Lee is included in the spreadsheet and described like this: "Cyclist in stream of traffic and apparently weaving in and out of lanes, is struck by front of tipper lorry."

New Cycle Super Highway - full of motor vehicles
Does this encourage safe cycling?
 To me this reads like victim-blaming. You get killed by an HGV? Your fault for weaving in and out of the lanes.
But to be honest, it's almost impossible not to 'weave' in and out of motor traffic in London, isn't it? In fact, I think Transport for London actively forces you to 'weave' in and out of motor traffic on a bicycle. Here's why:

Pictured left, is the a newly-designed junction on a Boris Johnson Cycle Super Highway in Pimlico. Back in April, I wrote how this Super Highway was a death waiting to happen. Transport for London objected. They sent someone to accompany me on a visit to the junction. I distinctly remember the man from TfL looking at the scene in the picture and saying it's fine for cycling because there won't be many motor vehicles in the cycle lane. But just look at it. Other people have called these cycle lanes 'ghost cycle lanes' before. For the simple reason that they are actually motor vehicle lanes painted blue. Just look at the scene - there are loads of motor vehicles in the cycle lane. The motor vehicles are turning left and the cycles generally going straight on. There's actually no space for you to cycle in the cycle lane. So, if you don't want to get knocked over by a motor vehicle turning left, you're safer to cycle between the lanes of motor vehicles. So, this TfL cycle lane actually makes you 'weave' between motor lanes, the same way Min Joo Lee had to 'weave' between motor vehicles before she was killed. Yet, this is what the road layout forces most cyclists to do here.

As I wrote back in the spring, what flummoxes me is that TfL knows that accidents happen mainly at junctions. And junctions are where the Cycle Super Highways are a consistent let-down.

Another 'ghost cycle lane' filled with HGV and bus.
How is it possible to cycle here without 'weaving' between
motor traffic?
Here's the scene (picture left)  at another completely useless piece of cycling infrastructure - the Cycle Super Highway into the City of London on Southwark Bridge Road. The blue lane is the cycle lane. It's underneath an HGV and a bus. Where exactly are you suppoed to cycle? The only option is to a) get off and walk of b) keep moving by 'weaving' between lanes? Get killed here? It will be your fault.

The fact is, Transport for London is designing facilities for cycling that are completely and utterly unusable. Which is why cyclists don't use them. They simply can't. So they are forced by Transport for London to 'weave' in between streams of traffic, just the same way Min Joo Lee might have been when she was killed by an HGV. And if they happen to get killed by an HGV, TfL will issue a fatality statement that suggests the cyclist was at fault.

I'm absolutely fuming about this. I think TfL should be held to account for its policy of 'smoothing the traffic flow' - bureaucracy-speak for making London's junctions into places where motor vehicles get through as efficiently as possible but screws everyone else whether they are on foot or on a bicycle - that I believe is killing people. And so I fully support the moves by the authors of the Kings Cross Local Environment blog to do just that. But the issue is London-wide, not just at Kings Cross.

Last week, Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross asked the Mayor why there had been a 9.2% increase in cycling accidents last year. TfL listed the 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London. And then published some completely withering twaddle about how they're being made safer for cycling.

Read the list below. See if you think TfL is really making London's killer junctions safer for cycling?

I think this reads like a list of feeble platitudes. Most of these safety changes are just tiny bits of tinkering here and there. And the design of some fo the new cycle super highways is simply farcical. For example, at Vauxhall, you'll be expected to cycle directly across five lanes of traffic into the far right lane. Hardly safe cycling design is it?

Nothing is really being done to make it safer to cycle through London's killer junctions. Have a read of the Mayor and TfL's responses. Do these answers make you feel that the Mayor is taking cycling seriously or does it make you feel you are being fobbed off with whitewash and that nothing is going to change?

Question No: 2996 / 2011 Valerie Shawcross:

When asked at MQT about the 9.2% increase in cycling accidents in the previous year you referred to the TfL Cycle Safety Action Plan. Has TfL identified within the Cycle Safety Action Plan where and when collisions involving cyclists are most likely to occur? Please publish a table showing the ten most dangerous locations to cyclists in London, say which is the highways authority at that location and what actions TfL are taking to reduce the dangers to cyclists at each?.

Written response from the Mayor:
The locations with the highest number of cycle collisions in the GLA area between 2008 and 2010 are shown in the table below. These are on some of the busiest cycle routes in London and, as such, the number of collisions is generally proportionate to the number of cyclists in these locations. No fatal collisions occurred at any of these locations and at least 85 per cent of the collisions at all ten locations resulted in slight injuries, which did not require hospital treatment.

The table below indicates the specific infrastructure improvements which are taking place at each location. However, infrastructure improvements alone are not enough to improve cycle safety as collisions involving cyclists are not always concentrated at particular locations. TfL is therefore working with the London boroughs and the Cycle Safety Working Group to deliver other safety improvements such as education campaigns, better vehicle safety technology for freight vehicles and cycle training.

Location Borough Highway Authority Action being taken

1. St. George's Road/London Road/ Elephant & Castle Junction Southwark TfL An alternative route for cyclists was implemented at this location as part of Cycle Superhighway 7.

2. Clapham Road/ Kennington Park Road/ Camberwell Road Junction Lambeth TfL Safety improvements were introduced at this junction as part of Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 7 (CSH7). Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 5 will run east-west through Oval junction on the A202, and will deliver further safety improvements for cyclists.

3. Strand/Northumberland Avenue/Whitehall Junction Westminster Borough Westminster City Council has identified £878,000 of Local Implementation Plan funding for safety schemes throughout Westminster. I have asked TfL officers to engage with the borough to ensure that this location is considered for improvements.

4. Waterloo Road/ Stamford St/ York Road Junction Lambeth TfL Plans are being developed to improve signage in this area in order to provide cyclists with information about safe routes to Waterloo station that provide an alternative to navigating the roundabout at this junction.

5. Mansion House St/Princes St/ Threadneedle St Junction City of London Borough The City of London has three funded programmes in its Local Implementation Plan which will contribute to improving safety for cyclists throughout the ‘Square Mile’. I have asked TfL officers to liaise with the City of London to determine whether this location should be prioritised for improvements.

6. Elephant & Castle/Newington Butts Roundabout Southwark TfL Works to convert the roundabout to a signalised junction were undertaken between June 2010 and May 2011. Advance Stop Lines, Toucan crossings and shared use pavements were provided on all arms of the junction.

7. Hyde Park Corner Westminster TfL As part of the Barclays Cycle Superhighways (CSH) Programme, cycling improvements are being considered at Hyde Park Corner, which will see Route 9 terminating at the roundabout. These proposals are still in the early stages of planning and are not yet confirmed.

8. Millbank/Lambeth Bridge Junction Westminster TfL CSH 8 has been implemented on Grosvenor Rd and Milbank, and mandatory cycle lanes installed on entry and exit at the Millbank arm with Lambeth Bridge to improve cycling safety at the roundabout. In addition cycle measures were incorporated in the recently resurfaced Lambeth Bridge. These included widening the westbound mandatory cycle lane.

9. Clerkenwell Road/Farringdon Road Junction Islington TfL Cycle measures have been implemented at this junction primarily by London Borough of Islington catering for the heavy east to west cycle movement.

10. Albert Embankment/Kennington Lane/ Wandsworth Road Junction Lambeth TfL CSH 5 will run through Vauxhall Gyratory on the A202 and will provide a safer route for cyclists. Planned improvements include new sections of cycle lane, blind spot visibility mirrors, and changes to traffic islands and kerblines to reduce traffic speeds and improve safety.


  1. According to an email I received from the Met Police regarding cycle lanes and in particular Cycle Super highways they are not enforceable. To quote:

    "I have spoken to Barclays and they state that vehicles must not enter the cycle lane but unfortunately this is not enforceable at this moment in time."

    This despite the highway code stating:

    "140 Cycle lanes. These are shown by road markings and signs. You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply."

    So basically, TFL don't care, the police don't care, so why should the motorists themselves? London will never be a world class cycling city when those in charge simply do not give a damn about cycling.

  2. A side-effect of unsafe bicycling facilities that might be more persuasive than the fatality count seems to be:

    It's worth noting that as a cyclist and freelancer/small business owner, I can mostly determine where I work and socialise. I live in Hackney and mostly work in the City, both of which have infrastructure that caters to my cycling lifestyle - SO THIS IS WHERE I SPEND MY MONEY. I largely don't work or socialise in places I don't feel safe getting to, and that goes for my friends as well. This doesn't help anyone who does live there, but looking at the list of dangerous intersections, many of them are in places I can't be asked to deal with. I'm lucky enough to have the ability to choose, of course - but for what it's worth, I very rarely choose to go to Westminster or south of the river. Though it's within easy cycling distance, I don't meet clients there and I don't go out with friends there. Those boroughs and their businesses have lost out to other, more bike-friendly boroughs.

    (I agree fully that there ought to be London-wide cycling infrastructure that makes cycling safe for everyone of all ages and abilities.)

  3. Leyn, I completely agree with you. I largely ignore places in, say, Westminster or Wandsworth which are too hard to cycle to in the evenings and head out in Hackney, southwark, lambeth, where a) I can cycle more safely b) I can park my bike c) lots of other people cycle to. Some parts of London becoming less accessible to cycling, others becoming better.

  4. It surely looks like TFL will have to answer a charge of corporate manslaughter over kings cross, I've emailed the network rail contact from a few posts ago raising this point. I'd like to think that they might have second thoughts over supporting TFL if they can be also held liable for corporate manslaughter when the next cyclist or pedestrian is mown down by an hgv outside blackfriars station and left to die in the road in front of 100s of commuters.

  5. Blimey, I go through three of these everyday! Not sure what "measures have been implemented at Clerkenwell Road/Farringdon Road Junction catering for the heavy east to west cycle movement ... primarily by London Borough of Islington catering for the heavy east to west cycle movement. " I can't thing of anything there that makes it safer.

  6. ASLs are completely useless without enforced mandatory cycle lanes...

  7. I cycle in areas of London that don't even have Cycle Super Highways - from Charlton through Lewisham, Catford, Sydenham, to Selhurst (and occasionally beyond). You should see how much less seriously cycling is taken around there. The Government needs to do a lot more to accommodate cyclists and make them safer on the roads because most motorists have at best a total disregard and at worst contempt for us.

    Entirely separate cycle lanes, with enforceable rules to ensure that motorists cannot just drift into them with impunity should be introduced.

    Is it worth creating an epetiton about this. 100,000 signatures is an awful lot to get but it must surely be achievable with the number of cyclists around the UK?


  8. No1, yes, I've tried the roundabout twice and bth times nearly collided with a bus (and that's early in the morning when the traffics light) so I'll stick to the windy CS7. However it has traffic lights that only work when the ped crossing button is pressed, which is fine middle of the day when it's busy. There's no one around at 0530-0600 and those that are around don't press the button... And when it is busier, you get buses blocking the crossing (something I've reported a few times to TFL and they came back with a great reply backing my views which was encouraging.)

    Blimey - no2 safety improvements were introduced?! Really? How bafd was it before?! The forced lane change in either direction, mingling with traffic trying to turn left south/west bound, crossing the flow north/eastbound, the design isn't great, butthen saying it's not great is one thing, suggesting how to improve it is another... The fairly recent rejigging of the light phases seems to have helped a little.

    No7 - am I the only one to think ending the route at the roundabout is just daft? Surely it should at least cross the roundabout (no idea where it runs there from, but there's better places all around the roundabout to end it than at the roundabout itself!

    Bit confused with "mandatory" lanes, does that mean we have to use them? Also agree with the highway code rule, that's my understanding of the regs, actually worrying that the police don't seem to know this - might be an idea to contact them again and mention that rule, might find it was a local beat officer that replied rather than a traffic one (there still are some out there!) Generally most people do stay out of the lanes with solid lines, in the same way as most people obey bus lanes all the times, even though they're only officially bus lanes for a few hours.

    The current set up does tend to encourage you to slip up the side of vehicles at junctions, and when they're sat in the ASL you've nowhere to go (if you want to see the lights and be seen) It would help if motorists indicated while queuing (those little flashing lights must really drain the battery...) but at the same time it's common sense to keep yourself out of a dangerous position - if in doubt don't filter!

    Blimey, bit of an epic comment.

  9. One should note Elephant & Castle is the most dangerous junction overall when all users are considered. The largest casualty group are cyclists, but motorcyclist and car driver / passenger casualties are also high. Even bus passengers aren't safe here, with 15 casualties from 2008 to 2010.

  10. Cycling in a city like London is always going to be a dangerous. Lindon, especially the central bits are not really designed for mixed transports modes. I have worked with TFL and I know that they are aware of the limitations if the cycle lane. Many of which are, at busy times as good as useless.

    I cycle most days but sometimes I drive and to be honest there are as many dodgy cyclist as there are drivers. The difference as we all know is that the risk of injury to a vehicle driver is very low.

    My advice is always make yourself visible, take the safest option and take nothing for granted. People are unpredictable and your rights are worthless when you are faced with an 8 wheeler turning left on you.

  11. Milkrota - sorry but that is spurious rot. Cycling in London is not always going to be dangerous, as many cities around the world have and are proving, including New York. It requires political will followed by proper funding.

  12. @anon 18:02.

    Agreed - whilst there is much to improve upon across London, particularly in central areas where there is a higher volume of bicycle traffic, the degree to which South-East London is ignored when it comes to cycling infrastructure is shocking. It seems to me that TFL is doing little to ameliorate road traffic conditions in zone 2/3 boroughs, where real gains can be made in terms of persuading people to see cycling as a legitimate and safe alternative to driving.

    Case in point: The Old Kent Road. From New Cross to Elephant & Castle, this 1.5 mile stretch of urban motorway has absolutely no cycling provision whatsoever, and yet it is the main route into central London for those living south east of the river. What's worse, when there is heavy traffic (which is fairly often given the fact that the road is clogged with delivery vehicles from the home counties), there is virtually no space to cycle, with the result that most cyclists have to simply weave through cars and battle for any small chink of space available.

    Why has a main road such as the Old Kent Road been completely ignored? Has anyone ever raised concerns with TFL about this? I'm tempted to start a campaign to get some kind of cycling provision installed...

  13. Hi Danny,
    Excellent post! You are right to be fuming about this issue. TFL are engaged in systematic palming off of all responsibility for the safety of all street users.

    I noticed with dismay, but not surprise that at the top 10 dangerous junctions: " No fatal collisions occurred at any of these locations and at least 85 per cent of the collisions at all ten locations resulted in slight injuries, which did not require hospital treatment."
    *maybe these are not the most dangerous junctions guv?

    This is the same bullshit I got from TFL in reponse to a formal complaint about a junction near our home. We have witnessed serious accidents, including an air ambulance attendance. But were re-assured by TFL, that the junction was safe and no serious accidents had occured.

    So, what now? Feels like the time to start to make TFL streets staff feel like they really are the bad guys.

  14. I used to cycle over Hyde Park Corner quite a bit. I genuinely don't get how terminating their route in the middle is going to change anything. It's actually quite safe *crossing* from Hyde Park to Green Park as it is as there are (biased) lights to get you across - but the danger must surely be for any cyclist using the roundabout itself which is just an insane piece of road. Ending the blue paint there will make no difference at all except giving the blood flowing a nice colour to contrast with. FFS.

  15. What a joke that response is!
    1: Have you tried using the CS7 "diversion" round there? I regularly use that junction and thought I'd give the CS a go one night. So maybe trying to use a (supposedly) well signed route on some backstreets in the dark wasn't the best idea as I ended up losing the CS! I may not have given it 100% of my attention, between bumping up and down pavements and round potholes etc. but then isn't that proof that it just falls at the first hurdle? Luckily I had a rough idea where I was and managed to find a road I recognized.

    2. Rough translation: We put some blue paint down, stop moaning....

    3. Just resurfacing there would be a start! But as the potholes don't "really" effect cars/buses/lorries etc. I can't see it being fixed any time soon...

    4. Translation: Use an alternative route you whining cyclists....

    5. Token response, like a parent saying "We'll see" when children ask for a treat....

    6. The redesign looks safer on paper....ah fuck it use the "shared use" paths....

    7. Haven't ridden myself, lets hope the CS addition helps! Hint: Don't hold your breath

    8. We put down some blue paint which cars aren't allowed to use between 7am-7pm each weekday, outside of those hours you're on your own.

    9. Someone else did the work, don't blame us!

    10. Our "transport" planners have worked their special brand of magic here with some planned improvements which will no doubt make it even more un-appealing to use the cycle lanes....

  16. Re: leyn and anon's comments about choosing not to give patronage to areas that are not cyclist friendly..

    Some of us are not fortunate enough to be able to afford a lifestyle in Hackney, where we can meet clients and friends without ever leaving trendy, central areas. I live south of New Cross and cycle to work as much as possible to avoid paying out the nose for rush hour trains. Unfortunately that means I end up risking my life several times a week along Old Kent Road and through the junctions near Elephant & Castle. Just to get to work! TfL's complete disregard of cyclists outside of central London is offensive and borderline classist. Why should Zone 3+ commuters play second fiddle to those who rarely want or have to leave their own borough?

  17. You don't have to weave between traffic to avoid being hit by left turning vehicles! In standing traffic move slightly into the middle of the lane so that you are behind a potentially left turning car in front of you and ahead of one behind you - surely this is quite simple. Eyeball the motorists to they know you're there. The problem is impatience - people are too impatient to wait for traffic so they start weaving in and out- you make it sound like it is impossible to stay on the left when it is not.

    I do agree that these cycle superhighways are no more than expensive blue road paint in a lot of places.

  18. I came off my bike whilst travelling in a cycle lane, the reason? a pedestrian steppinmg off the pavement wothout looking left or right when stepping off of the pavement, this was leading to accident spot No5 on this list on King William Street. No apology from the pedestirian, new front wheel required £60 and worst of all three months of pain in my elbow which had a chipped bone!

  19. When cyclists give a damn about red lights and not overtaking on the blindside and pay some road tax I will give a toss about them, until then do as they do in civilised countries. The bigger vehicle has right of way.

    1. Note: Road tax doesn't exist, idiot

  20. I read your article with interest. In a few places in your article you've suggested that "weaving" or riding in between the traffic to make progress is the only way to proceed. I'd like to remind you and my other fellow cyclists that you shouldn't do anything that you think is unsafe to do so. Waiting with the traffic for a short period of time is better than risking your own safety!


  21. I drive and cycle.. Most cyclists are idiots. You never under cut a car. If you do and the vehicle is turning left its your fault. If you weave in and out of traffic it's your fault. A lot of cyclists haven't a clue how to ride a bike in London. You get bikes riding on the inside and the outside of a car which is dangerous. Cyclists hardly ever signal either and always jump red lights. I don't ride like a tit on my bike because I know how it is from a drivers perspective. I'd say most accidents are cyclists fault from my experience.

  22. To criminals like you, commenting above, should be taken away the driving licence and be forced on a bike in the traffic for life. You would not talk like this if your daughter was killed on the street! U should be ashamed of those ignorant sentences. If I knew who you are I would take you to court!

  23. i ment the ignorant potential murder who wrote "The bigger vehicle has right of way" earlier

  24. "The bigger vehicle has right of way" a sign of a civilized country? Ever been to India or Kenya and compared cycling there with, say, uncivilized Denmark or The Netherlands?
    It's the most bizarre logic I've heard in a long time. The bigger the vehicle the higher the reponsibility of the driver I'd say.

  25. To Anonymous poster on 6 November 2011 13:58. There is no such thing as road tax. If you drive a car then you pay vehicle excise duty which is based on your emissions and linked to the amount of pollution you produce.

    I have a job. I work full-time. I pay tax. I cycle. I pay for the roads too.

    They are *not* just for vehicle drivers!

  26. Good to see the anonymous trolls have arrived... must mean Danny's excellent arguments are finally getting through to people

  27. im a former met police traffic officer and now a london black cab driver, i understand the frustration of the cyclist, however there isnt enough police to enforce regulations etc, however on the other side there are quite a percentage of cyclist whom dont help the cyclist call.several times i have been driving my cab in marylsbone road which has 3 lanes to see a cyclist in lane three not intending to turn right but continued for almost half a mile.eh! hello,your going to die sonner or later..also the wanten disregard to red traffic lights and crossings down one way streets the wrong way,, you are ROAD USERS and therefore the LAW applies to you too.. wake up guys and live longer.. dealt with a few fatals when i was a police officer..its not nice..

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