London’s roads – how safe are cyclists?

19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road incidents each year according to a 2014 survey by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA)

The London Underground project devised an award-winning proposal in February which suggests transforming London’s disused underground tunnels into functioning cycle routes.It is yet to be seen whether these proposals will be implemented.

The hopes of this project were to tackle the risk to cyclists on London’s roads, as 75 percent of fatal or serious cyclist accidents happening in urban areas according to ROSPA.

With twice the number of cyclists taking to Britain’s roads the risk to each individual cyclist has dropped by 34 percent. However, the number of cycling casualties has increased by 40 percent according to a report by The National Cycling Charity (CTC). These figures only include reported road accidents as ROSPA claims many cases go unreported to the police.

Cycling route actually taken. Bethnal Green to Buckingham Gate

Cycling route actually taken. Bethnal Green to Buckingham Gate

I wanted to find out first hand just how dangerous London’s roads are for cyclists. So Google maps at the ready I planned the route from Bethnal Green to Oxford Circus, the busiest junction in London.

However, as with many things in life, the ride didn’t exactly go according to plan… Instead of ending up at Oxford Circus I took an unscheduled detour and finished at Buckingham Gate – only a 1.5 mile blip.

Cycling on the roads overall was not too bad, provided I was alert at all times. There were not many occasions when I was in a designated cycle lane, despite London mayor Boris Johnson’s vision of creating  “a network of direct, joined-up cycle tracks, with many running in parallel with key underground, rail and bus routes” according to the Greater London Authority website.

Mayor Johnson also promised to improve safety for cyclists at junctions; a scheme that was recently criticised by the Evening Standard when it revealed that the mayor was under spending on the budget for road safety by £50 million a year.

75 percent of all cycling accidents happen at, or near a road junction, with T junctions posing the most risk according to a study from ROSPA. In a survey by insurance company Aviva the most dangerous junction for cyclists in London was revealed last month to be Elephant and Castle roundabout. The survey was based on 23,000 reported cycle accidents between 2009 and 2013.

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the London Assembly Lib-Dems said the figures are “appalling” and that it is “shameful that year after year TfL repeatedly spend just a fraction of their allocated budget on vital improvements to junctions and investing in cycling infrastructure.”

Waterloo Road roundabout, 45 cyclist incidents have happened here according to Aviva

Waterloo Road roundabout, 45 cyclist incidents have happened here according to Aviva

Waterloo Road roundabout is the third highest junction for cyclist accidents and this is one that I decided to test out on my cycling trip. Navigation is difficult in this area. With fast-moving traffic, cyclists have to dodge between oncoming cars in order to move over to the designated cycle lanes, which has proven fatal on many occasions.

I am not a regular cyclist and I certainly did not feel safe whilst cycling around London’s roads. That said I would definitely hire a cycle again but maybe stick to the parks and group cycling activities in future.

Aviva’s list of Top 10 cyclist incident hotspots in London 2009-2013

  • Elephant and Castle roundabout 80
  • Trafalgar Square 46
  • Waterloo Road roundabout 45
  • Lambeth Bridge/Millbank roundabout 38
  • Upper Tooting Road/Lessingham Avenue, Ansell Road/ Derinton Road 34
  • Grove Road/Mile End Road 32
  • Vauxhall Bridge/ Wandsworth Road 31
  • Monument Tube station junction 29
  • Camberwell New Road/Brixton Road 28
  • Camberwell New Road/Kennington Road/Harleyford Street 28

Watch the video of the journey cycling around London’s roads:

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