Cycling in London in recent years has become one of the most popular modes of transport. There has been an 117% rise in cycle journeys since the year 2000. London is often congested with conventional transport, such as buses and cars, which makes getting around quite impossible at times. On a bicycle a commuter has more freedom, and is able to miss a lot of the usual traffic woes experienced by other commuters. Although cycling is much healthier and more ecologically sound, cyclists do have dangers that are not always so apparent. In 2011 sixteen cyclists were killed in London, with 80% of those involving heavy goods vehicles. But who is to blame for deaths such as these? Is it the cyclist or the drivers?
This project is an observation of cycling habits in London. Throughout the project it has been amazing to see that a great majority of cyclists are quite oblivious to the dangers they put themselves in. Left turning vehicles kill the majority of cycle commuters. Riding into blind spots of larger vehicles and not being seen unfortunately results in often-fatal incidents. A scheme set up by the metropolitan police cycle task force, ‘Exchanging Places’, is slowly educating cyclists on the dangers of heavy goods vehicles. The general opinion of the members of the task force is that the lack of experience and knowledge of road rules is chiefly to blame. Due to cyclist not having to pass a test to ride on the roads, knowledge of road rules is often lacking and frequently ignored. It is hoped that by educating people on dangers, the amount of fatalities on London roads will decrease.
The most predominate cycling campaign group in London is LCC (London Cycling Campaign). Their ethos is to make London a safer and healthier place to live by introducing more people to cycling. There main campaign at the moment is called ‘Go Dutch’. This campaign centers itself on showing the London mayor candidates that a large number of Londoners want to see safer cycling infrastructure in place. It would be good to see more cyclists on the roads, but if cyclists have no idea of the road rules and procedures, are more people putting themselves at risk? The infrastructure that the LCC would like to see is a greater number cycle only lanes and transformation of major junctions to make them safer for cyclists.
From observing the cycling habits in London, the experience within cyclists seems to vary dramatically. Some cyclists do have drivers’ licenses and obey most of the road rules. But there is a minority of cyclists who are unaware of the hazards while cycling. Wearing of headphones listening to music and talking on mobile phones seems to be one of the most regular dangers people put themselves in. By doing actions such as these while cycling the rider is increasing the chances of something happening as they have removed one or more of their senses, which can be useful when riding in a lot of traffic in London.
Most of the blame for cyclists’ deaths are put on lorry drivers. This is because most deaths do occur to cyclists when a lorry is involved. Some lorry drivers do drive irresponsibly, but to drive a lorry in London is not an easy task, and takes a lot of concentration. Keith, a lorry driver from Essex, drives a front axel tipper and loader lorry. These trucks are very common around London, and have claimed some cyclist’s lives. He completes jobs all around London and says the most dangerous times are rush hours. Keith finds that cyclists’ running up the inside of traffic is crazy. He believes road laws need to be consistent for all road users. At the moment, the laws seem to be different between the various modes of transport.
Cyclist numbers in London will continue to increase. Though this increase will most likely multiply the number of cycling related incidents in the capital. The disputes between motor vehicle drivers and cyclists will have to end if resolutions are to be drawn up to make cycling safer. Although some cyclists may not approve, harder enforcement on cyclists’ behavior should be put in place. London roads are dangerous for cyclists’; but from these observations the biggest dangers to cyclists are normally their own actions.
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