Cycle Safety in London

The recent spate of cycle deaths on London’s roads has prompted a heated debate about the best way forward. Cycling is a great way for Londoners to get fit, but it must be in a relatively safe environment, and let’s face it, London’s roads are dangerous. Several of my personal training clients in London cycle to and from work, and report that it’s a hazardous venture.

Most London boroughs provide subsidised cycle training to improve your cycle safety and road-awareness. These London cycle instructors are like personal trainers for cyclists, and there are even courses for seasoned cyclists to bring their skills up to an advanced level.

Cyclist Chris Boardman, former British gold medallist (Barcelona 2002), is policy advisor to British Cycling, and he advocates the creation of a much safer environment for cyclists. At the recent London Cycle Safety Summit, he voiced the need to make all lorries and HGV’s adhere to much stricter safety standards.

I think one of the biggest problems for cyclists in London is the gross underfunding of the police. There simply aren’t enough traffic police on London’s roads to deal with all the traffic offences, unsafe vehicles, unlicenced/uninsured drivers, drunk drivers, the list is endless. The fact is that cyclists have to share the road with far too many dangerous drivers, and police resources aren’t even close to the bare minimum standard required to make our roads safe.

Cyclists must share some responsibility too. As a personal trainer in London, I’m out and about in London in the early mornings before it gets light, and after dark in the evening. I’ve lost count of the number of cyclists I’ve seen in the dark without any high visibility clothing or any lights. And I’ve frequently seen cyclists speeding through red lights and pedestrian crossings, and speeding along pavements.

However, the London Cycling Campaign condemns ‘victim blaming’ after 6 London cyclist deaths in the space of 2 weeks in November. There is a trend among cycle advocates to condemn any suggestion that cyclists are ever to blame or even partly to blame in the event of a collision with a car or lorry. Personally I think everyone should take a share of responsibility to act safely on the roads: pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers, and lorry drivers.

Cycling is growing in popularity in London, and Boris Johnson should be applauded in helping to produce such an increase in London cyclists, not least with the Boris Bike scheme. However, he’s lagging behind in providing a safe cycle infrastructure. The chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign, Dr Ashok Sinha, calls for a major change in the physical infrastructure of London’s roads, to segregate cyclists from other traffic.

In response to the latest spate of cyclist deaths, Boris Johnson said that it “must be seen in the context of an overall decline in deaths.”

The latest campaign that LCC is running is Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling. LCC points out that lorries are involved in 50% of cycle deaths, and calls for tougher regulation of lorries driving through London. ┬áThis includes awareness training for all lorry drivers, safety mirrors and sensors which detect cyclists in the lorry driver’s blind-spots.

One major infrastructure change which I think is badly needed is the construction of cycle-only bridges across the Thames. For instance, Sustrans (the organisation for sustainable transport) has proposed a cycling/walking bridge from Rotherhithe (Durand’s Wharf) to Canary Wharf (Westferry Road). This fully-costed proposal has not been given the go-ahead by Boris Johnson. Why not?


Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.