Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bother for Boris in Bow

To paraphrase Joseph Stalin, the death of one person is a tragedy; the deaths of thousands is a matter of statistics. So it is that two tragic deaths at the same location in less than a month is sufficient to generate a flurry of media stories about the Bow Flyover roundabout. Statistically, two deaths so close together in location and in time is an anomaly as this location isn't even in the top 10 most dangerous junctions.

However, it does encourage journalists to ask serious questions of TfL about its whole Superhighways strategy. The approach is to route cyclists along the capital's busiest roads, and through its most dangerous junctions, while asserting that it's impossible to put in proper provision for cyclists at those junctions because it would have too much impact on traffic flow. Transport for London (TfL) director Ben Plowden promised to look "very closely" at the Bow junction. Why? TfL knew perfectly well how dangerous these junctions - fast, multi-laned affairs with a good sprinkling of HGVs - are for cyclists. Nothing has changed. TfL knew it had the choices it made didn't ensure cyclist safety, and it must have known what the consequence of that would be. It is easy for TfL and its ultimate boss Boris Johnson to maintain the the Blackfriars Bridge redesign has to sacrifice cycle lanes on the altar of traffic flow, given that it's not killed anyone yet, but it's not so easy to defend the Bow Flyover design in the face of the bereaved families and friends of the victims.

It's therefore important that everyone realises that Bow is the tip of a very considerable iceberg. Fixing Bow, if TfL is minded to do it, won't fix any of the other more dangerous junctions, and more people will die at those locations. There must be an acceptance that the two recent fatal collisions at Bow were not accidents. This was not one rogue road designer, an isolated error or a failure of process. The Bow junction is the way it is precisely because the designers followed TfL's rules and guidance on road design, prioritizing traffic flow and ignored the protests of London Cycling Campaign about the clear dangers. If these deaths are not to be in vain, TfL must accept that it has an institutional problem, a systemic problem, and to address it, it needs to push cyclist safety to the top of the priority list.

1 comment:

  1. Or, to adapt Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell, one might be considered a misfortune. Two looks like carelessness.

    Write to Boris demanding action.