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Croydon Council reviews tram/cyclist safety after 2013 death

TfL experts called in to try and fix "significant danger" to riders...

A review of the safety of cyclists among tram lines all over Croydon has been ordered after coroner Selena Lynch issued a Prevention of Future Deaths Report following her investigation into the 2013 death of cyclist Roger De Klerk.

Mr De Klerk was riding along Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon on November 12 2013, just before midday. He stopped at lights, then turned left into Addiscombe Road, where his wheels became caught in the tramlines, causing him to fall into the path of an oncoming bus.

The 43-year-old IT consultant had recently left publisher HarperCollins to start his own business. Originally from South Africa, he lived in Forest Hill, London.

In her report, the coroner stated four concerns, pointing out that "tramlines represent a significant danger for cyclists"; the design of the cycle lane at the junction is confusing and gives the impression that cyclists should use the pavement to cross the junction, then puts left-turning cyclists parallel with the tramlines; if cyclists mistakenly use the pavement because of that confusion, they are potentially in conflict with pedestrians; and the signage at the junction appears to suggest that the tram route is a cycle route.

Ms Lynch instructed the London Borough of Croydon to undertake "an urgent review of of the provision for cyclists on or near tramlines both at this junction and generally".

The report gave the council until December 11 to respond.

A Freedom of Information request by Croydon Cycling Campaign's Austen Cooper revealed that Croydon Head of Highways Steve Iles has asked Transport for London's design team to carry out a review of the junction and suggest options to make it safer.

Mr Cooper told the Croydon Advertiser's Tom Matthews it was "sad that Croydon Council wait for people to die and coroners to complain before action is finally taken".

He said: "We need the council to adopt a Vision Zero policy, by which road deaths are not tolerated but actively managed out.

"In 2013, more people died on Croydon's roads than were murdered. We deserve better and we can't afford the body count."

The review team will include expertise employed on TfL's cycling better junction review and central London cycle superhighway design, Mr Iles said, to provide short term options that can be quickly implemented and more extensive improvement.

Mr Iles said: "The council also appreciates that the issues for cyclists when crossing the tram tracks may exist at other locations along the tram network.

"For this reason the Council has discussed with TfL Tramlink the possible application of proprietary products which fill in the gap within the rail but to date have not found anything that is suitable for in street application and that do not have a significant risk to the operation."

Mr Cooper said that Velostrail, which fills the flange groove alongside the rails but can be pressed down by passing trams, might help.

He said: "We've been told at Croydon Council Cycle Forum of a product called Velostrail, which is said to make tram tracks safer for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, baby carriages, and inline skaters. As an added benefit it stops ice forming in the track grooves."

Trams and cyclists could co-exist, he said, as shown by cities like Amsterdam and other areas of Croydon.

"People cycle alongside or between the tram tracks in George Street and Church Street every day.

"Amsterdam is renowned for its trams and cycling – if the Dutch can crack it, so can we."

"Cracking" the way for trams and bikes to coexist in the UK is a hot topic at the moment as more cities introduce light rail and urban cycling numbers increase. After a spate of crashes in Edinburgh, cyclists are suing the city over the safety of its new tramlines.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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