Rides and wrongs: Is the haulage industry doing enough to keep cyclists safe?


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The Independent Online

It is a sequence of events all too sadly familiar, in which progress is checked by tragic setback. Our cities change to make cycling more attractive, and the number of cyclists duly increases. But then comes news of another cycling death, very often after a collision with a lorry.

In the latest such incident in London, a 30-year-old woman died under the wheels of a tipper truck in Victoria yesterday. She is the fourth person to die in a cycling accident in London this year, and the second to die on a Barclays Cycle Hire bicycle, or “Boris bike”, since the hire scheme’s introduction in 2010.

The involvement of the Boris bike will mean this incident will receive more attention than the three other deaths, and the result will be that cycling in London will feel a little more dangerous. Riders could be excused if they were put off riding at all. But this, too, would be dangerous, because of the benefits to our health and environment through cycling.

All road deaths are tragic, and must lead to further, urgent action, in this case by Transport for London and the haulage industry. While we wait for improvements, including the new Cycle Superhighway in London, greater awareness among cyclists can only help too. But perspective remains vital. Four cyclist deaths in the first seven weeks of the year is a higher rate than average, and four deaths too many. Over the past five years, there has been a fatal incident involving a London cyclist about once a month. Even while cycling participation continues to rise, there is no reason to expect 2015 to end any differently.

But last year there were a record 10 million Boris bike journeys – a daily average of more than 27,000. By the end of 2014, there had been almost 37 million Boris bike journeys since the scheme’s inception.

That just two of these journeys have now ended fatally, while of no comfort to the families of the victims, shows how safe cycling is and can be.