Bow roundabout: Will TfL and the Mayor now act?

A cycling superhighway in London Four priority lanes have been painted blue around London to encourage more people to ride bikes

Just days after I wrote about dangerous junctions and the Bow roundabout, another cyclist has been killed there.

The 34-year-old woman is the 15th cyclist to die in the capital this year - the eighth involving a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV).

While the exact circumstances into both deaths are being investigated, there are now renewed calls from politicians and London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to change the junction.

And what makes cyclists and many others more angry is that the problems and concerns at that junction are not new, and are very well documented.

In February the LCC wrote to TfL, saying they had concerns about the cycling superhighway going through this junction being "woefully inadequate".

LCC says: "There have now been three fatalities and eight serious injuries at the roundabout in recent years."

As I reported recently this is one of a number of junctions that campaigners want made safer in London. Don't forget the Bow roundabout route is meant to be one of the main cycling routes to get to the Olympic Park.

In August I reported on grave concerns from local cyclists at the very same junction.

As you can see in that story's video, the cycling superhighway stops completely on the roundabout.

This is because Newham Council do not want the blue cycle lane going up to Stratford yet.

Again John Biggs from Labour and Jenny Jones from the Greens on the London Assembly questioned the mayor and the transport commissioner Peter Hendy about this very junction this week.

Here's my report on that.

The junction has always been potentially very dangerous for cyclists but the issue seems to have become more pronounced as the cycling superhighway now runs through it.

'Critical mass'

The theory behind the cycling superhighways - which are non-segregated - is that the blue lanes mean drivers know where to look for cyclists.

And as the superhighways attract more cyclists to them, the "critical mass" theory also means drivers are more aware of those on two wheels.

TfL have already produced figures that show many more cyclists are attracted to using the superhighway from Clapham into town, for example.

And there have been no reported casualties there.

A ghost bike tribute and flowers where a cyclist died near King's Cross A ghost bike tribute and flowers where a cyclist died near King's Cross

The problem is that at this very busy junction in particular there are many more HGVs, with the associated blind spots, than on other cycling superhighways.

This junction is next to one of the biggest building sites in Europe - the Olympic Park.

Sadly it's well known that HGVs cause the majority of cycling deaths in London.

And while we don't know what exactly happened in either of the cases, it follows that if you are attracting more cyclists to a route where it's known accidents happen, then probability-wise you will see more collisions.

And if HGVs are more likely to be involved as there are more of them at a particular junction, then sadly there will be more deaths.

'Extremely sorry'

So the question now has to be asked - is this the right place to be trying to encourage cyclists to go through using cycling superhighways?

It seems inconceivable that London's mayor and Transport for London would not now act in some way to try and solve this problem. Should the superhighway be re-routed away from the Bow roundabout? Or could it be redesigned?

Leon Daniels, managing director of Surface Transport at TfL said: "We are extremely sorry to learn of the tragic death of a female cyclist, following a collision with an HGV on the Bow Road roundabout on Friday evening.

"Our thoughts are with her family and friends. I have visited the scene and both TfL and the police have launched inquiries which will report as quickly as possible‬."

They have also listed the improvements they have made to the junction so far - none of them though address the problem of the superhighway stopping in the centre of the roundabout:

  • New blue cycle surfacing on northern and southern sections of the roundabout
  • New traffic islands to separate cyclists from general traffic
  • New advanced stop line (ASL) on exit from Bow Road
  • Trixi mirrors were installed at traffic signals on the roundabout
  • Sections of new road surfacing
  • Changes to kerb lines

Let me know your thoughts.

Tom Edwards, Transport correspondent, London Article written by Tom Edwards Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Leon Daniels, managing director of Surface Transport at TfL said: "We are extremely sorry to learn of the tragic death of a female cyclist." - please note sorry _to learn of_, not sorry _for_!

    This has been TFL's attitude to many of the 15 deaths in the last year. This may help explain why:

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Boris and TfL must act NOW. The glib, dismissive performance in the Assembly earlier this week was an insult to all those who suffer their lack of understanding of this problem.
    What's the point of the blue paint and ASL's when drivers ignore them, knowing that, even when found guilty of dangerous driving, the courts are handing out slaps on the wrist for killing cyclists and pedestrians?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    How safe can you make junctions ? Many cyclists are taking to some of the most congested roads in the world with no training whatsoever. Many have not driven on the road so have little or no 'road craft'.
    Car drivers and motorcyclists rightly give HGV's a wide berth when they are turning. Uneducated cyclists try to squeeze between the truck and the kerb with tragic results. Education is the answer

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Boris' cycling "superhighways" refer to patches of blue painted on the road at intervals. There are no barriers to protect the cyclists from other vehicles. Shame on Boris Johnson who has ignored John Bigg's repeated calls to improve the safety for cyclists on this particular roundabout whilst pretending he is doing something for cyclists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The Superhighways lack consistent priorities, give cyclists an unjustified sense of security, and spit us out at outdated gyratories where people are being injured on a seemingly daily basis.
    I'm sure these HGV drivers don't go to work intending to injure anyone - the problem is in the well identified design of TfL junctions. With so many warnings, TfL's inaction amounts to corporate manslaughter.


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