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Architects join calls for action on London’s cycle routes

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Cyclists are calling for urgent action on Boris’ Cycle Superhighways after five people died in bike accidents on the capital’s roads in just nine days

Three of the deaths have occurred on London Mayor Boris Johnson’s flagship Cycle Superhighway 2, between Aldgate and Bow.

A coroner’s report into previous accidents on the route claimed the painted cyclepaths ‘could pose a future risk to life unless action was taken.’

As a result of the recent deaths, the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has demanded that the Superhighways be upgraded to meet continental standards – widening and segregating cycle routes and better planning road junctions.

LCC chief executive Ashok Sinha said, ‘We warned the Mayor about the potentially lethal flaws on Superhighway 2 over a year ago. The Mayor must now signal that he wants to eliminate such avoidable fatalities by transforming the route – including the junctions at Bow and Aldgate – into an example of the highest standards in cycle safety.’

The industry has backed the campaign, calling for better segregation between cyclists and other road users and further investigations into the planning of cities for cycling infrastructure.  

Anna Surgenor, of the UK Green Building Council, commented: ‘We need to learn lessons from our European friends like the Netherlands and Scandanavia and invest in proper infrastructure for cyclists. Cycle highways should be physically separated from vehicles – a bit of blue paint and confused systems won’t solve the problem’.

London-based architect and cycling enthusiast Andy Matthews, added: ‘The Mayor’s policy of smoothing traffic flow is completely incompatible with the number of people cycling in London. Combining lorries and other large vehicles with cyclists on the same stretch of road has been proved to be lethal time and time again.

There is plenty of room in London for proper segregated infrastructure

‘The design of the Superhighways has long been criticised for leading cyclists into the danger zone on the left of vehicles. Proper segregated infrastructure would go a long way to avoiding this issue and there is plenty of room in London for such infrastructure.’

Tom Dollard, head of sustainability at Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects and one of the riders in the Portland to Portland charity cycle ride, said: ‘Cycle Superhighway 2 has dangerous roads at either end, and it lulls cyclists into a false sense of security. Segregated bike lanes must be introduced in its place.’

But architect and cyclist Nic Crawley, who also took part in this year’s Portland to Portland cycle ride, said the problem was more about behaviour. He said: ‘As s a cyclist and an architect, I think the behaviour of cyclists and drivers is the issue too often overlooked.’

‘I’ve ridden 6,000 miles this year, including right across the US, observing cycling in major cities and road users in London are certainly more aggressive - while infrastructure design is a key factor in road safety I’d say that mutual respect between all road users is a bigger safety issue.’

Last week, former secretary of the Royal Fine Art Commission Francis Golding, was killed in a cycling collision in Holburn. AJ editorial director Paul Finch blamed the ‘awful and unnecessary death’ on ‘London’s inadequate rules, conventions and infrastructure in respect of cycling.’

Hitting out at the deaths on twitter, Lord Adonis said: ‘The Mayor should appoint a rapid independent review of Superhighways after the horror of all these cyclists deaths in London.’

The Cycle Superhighways were first launched in 2010 to provide cyclists with ‘safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city’. There are currently four routes, with another eight planned by 2015.

Further comments

Joe Morris, director, Duggan Morris Architects

It’s a real and desperate shame that the ambition Boris has shown to convert London into a city of cyclists has resulted in so many tragic deaths and injuries. I have cycled the length and breadth of London for many, many years and have had three significant accidents that I can recall, all of which precede the Cycle Superhighway scheme Boris has implemented.

There are several which work really well. For example those along the Embankment between Lots Road and Westminster, and a new one near my home in Queen’s Road Peckham. These roads are ample in width and seem perfectly at ease with the various modes of transport running side by side. 

There are many instances however where the experience of the cyclist is hazardous (at best) and I’m unsure if it’s a symptom of road and safety engineering, coupled with location and spatial dynamics or simply a lack of care and thought which creates the dangers we as cyclists all to often encounter. I refer to now infamous black spots including Blackfriars Bridge and the environs in and around Clerkenwell where ghost bikes can be found in abundance.

Clearly the issue is complex and often highly charged. The road networks are hugely strained and under massive pressure, never helped by the seeming plague of road works and diversions which reap havoc on drivers and their short fuses.

Perhaps we all need to go on a course in anger management if we are to reside in this wonderful city of ours and prosper in this shared realm.

Ann Bodkin, consultant and architect

Having cycled daily for over 25 years in London, there has never felt a greater need to urgently address our roads.

An easy no cost solution would be to ban HGVs at rush hour. We had a condition added to a local planning application that prevented HGV movements at school arrival and departure time. It just takes a bit of organising from the powers.

As for junctions, we should look overseas where a number of measures achieve success, ranging from segregation to presumed powered vehicle always at fault.

I have huge admiration for London Cycling Campaign with their agility and common sense strategy. There has to be London leaders from all organisations who stand up and say I want my employees to get to work safely.

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