Cycling campaigners have reacted angrily to calls from the London Mayor Boris Johnson and one of the capital’s top police officers for riders to take more responsibility for their own safety.
Speaking today, in the wake of 10 cycle deaths on Britain’s roads so far this month, the Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Glyn Jones said: “I think the more vulnerable you are, the more careful you need to be – even if the law is on your side.”
His comments came as he launched a new initiative that will see 2,500 officers being asked to reinforce traffic rules in London’s worst blackspots.
This announcement came after an unnamed cyclist, believed to be 61, was killed by a lorry on Monday and became the eighth cyclist to die on the capital’s roads in the last two weeks. Other deaths in Nantwich and Sheffield bring this month’s UK death toll to 10. Another cyclist was reported to “be lucky to be alive” after a collision with a lorry in Camden, north London, on Monday evening.
Ch Supt Jones also echoed the concerns of many road safety campaigner that a major problem area was cyclists trying to pass a lorry on the left hand side before it makes a left-hand turn. “I’m not saying they’re doing anything wrong,” he said. “What I am saying is if you approach a junction and there’s an HGV, it might be more prudent to hang back than try to overtake the HGV on the inside.”
Later, Mr Johnson told BBC London that he thought cyclists who wear headphones are an “absolute scourge” and he would not be against banning them. “Call me illiberal but it makes me absolutely terrified to see them bowling along unable to hear the traffic,” he said.
The comments drew a sharp response from cyclists, politicians and campaign groups. Roger Geffen, the policy director of CTC, a national cycling charity, said. “It does seem grossly insensitive in the light of these deaths that so many people are blaming cyclists for running red lights or wearing headphones, when in fact there’s very little evidence that any of those things are implicated in what causes cyclists deaths and serious injuries.”
Jenny Jones, a Green member of the London assembly, added: “The Mayor always blames victims when pressed about casualty rises.” Calling for ban on lorries at peak time and a default 20mph speed limit, she added: “Why blame the people who are getting killed when you don’t know the circumstances?”