The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has continued ramping up pressure on Sadiq Khan and Transport for London to do more to make London’s roads safer for cyclists. Their latest focus is on providing safer road junctions. I do not often agree with the LCC, but in targeting junctions they are correct – 80 per cent of collisions that injure cyclists occur at them.
However, what the LCC does not say is that the “protected” bike lanes they have spent so much time cheerleading have, arguably, made junctions more dangerous for cyclists, not less. For example, in an article identifying the capital’s worst junctions they highlight the lane between Colliers Wood and Balham, which is segregated using plastic poles or wands:
“The most dangerous cluster of junctions for cycling in London is on Upper Tooting Road where Ansell Road, Derinton Road, Price Close and Lessingham Avenue intersect with the wand-protected cycle lane called Cycle SuperHighway (CS7).”
A simple analysis of this scheme, using TfL road safety data, shows that there were 18 serious cycle injuries on this group of junctions during the three years before July 2020, but 35 during the three years after the cycle lane went in. That is a doubling of serious injuries which cannot be explained by marginal increases in cycling volume.
The increase in casualties is no surprise because, contrary to what campaigners for them claim, such bike lanes are not necessarily safe. The problem with them is that they encourage poor road positioning by cyclists who wish to take right turns at junctions.
The segregated space down the left-hand side of roads means that cyclists are trapped close to the left-hand kerb, when the safest position from which to execute a right turn is the other side of the carriageway. This leaves them more vulnerable to what are sometimes called “fail to see collisions” with motor vehicles when they seek to turn right and goes against all the principles of formal cycle training.
Cycle lanes at junctions also create general confusion for all road users, including cyclists, about where they should be positioned on the road in relation to each other and where to expect others to be. Creating such confusion is contrary to what has hitherto been best practice – that road layouts should be understandable and self-explanatory.
There are many ways to improve road safety for cycles. Indeed, in 2013 TfL had a good plan, informed by years of road safety experience. Slower speeds, motor traffic reduction, cycle training, good road rules enforcement and targeted, data-led, engineering would make for more and safer cycling.
London should revert to that approach. Policies for improving road safety should be led by data. Simple slogans such as “Go Dutch” and “Safe Space 4 Cycling” and the very term “protected lanes” create only an illusion of greater safety for cyclists on the roads.
Vincent Stops is a former Hackney councillor and lead member for transport who worked on streets policy for London Travelwatch, the capital’s official transport users’ watchdog, for over 20 years. He cycles everywhere. X/Twitter Vincent Stops and On London.
If you value On London and its coverage of the capital, become a supporter or a paying subscriber to editor and publisher Dave Hill’s personal Substack for just £5 a month or £50 a year. You will even get things for your money.