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Mail Online blames London Cycle Superhighway for pedestrian deaths that never happened

Death of man struck by van is first near Ludgate Circus since protected bike lane opened

Mail Online, the sister website of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, claims that a Cycle Superhighway on a road in London “has been blamed for several deaths” after a pedestrian lost their life there after being struck by a van driver last week.

However, road.cc’s research finds it is the first fatality in the vicinity since the separated infrastructure opened last year.

Even before the Cycle Superhighway was built, the City of London Corporation highlighted that the location, at the junction of Ludgate Circus, was one where “many pedestrians ignore the pedestrian crossings.”

James Poyner, who sent road.cc a link to the Daily Mail’s article, told us of Friday’s death: “Really sad story but the idea that the segregated cycle lane is to blame is nonsense.

“The lights work, if people are willing to wait 45-60 seconds.”

The fatal crash happened yards from Ludgate Circus on New Bridge Street, which is on the route of the North-South Cycle Superhighway, which then continues along Farringdon Road.

Mail Online’s article, published on Friday, said in the headline that the victim was a woman – in fact, it was a man – and opens with the sentence: “A pedestrian has been killed after being hit by a van on a busy London street where a segregated cycle path has been blamed for several deaths.”

It continued: “The area is notorious for deaths because of its large junctions and lack of pedestrian crossings.

“Bystanders who saw the aftermath of the collisions raised concerns over the kerb of the so-called 'cycle superhighway' which pedestrians see as a convenient place to cross the road.”

Mail Online has vociferously opposed segregated infrastructure for cyclists in the capital, but in  this case its claim that pedestrians were killed there prior to last week’s fatality is not true, with none on record in the area since the Cycle Superhighway was opened nor in the previous decade.

Sam Jones, Cycling UK campaigner, told road.cc: “It’s quite a leap of logic to blame a static piece of infrastructure designed to keep people cycling safe for the tragic death of a pedestrian caused by a motor vehicle.

“Rather than seeking to further its clear anti-cycling agenda under the pretence of concerns about road safety, perhaps the Daily Mail might like to ask why the government isn’t doing more to address the 10 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities on our roads last year?”

While the Daily Mail does not provide an example of another fatality involving a pedestrian at the location in question, it does highlight the case of cyclist Janine Gehlau, aged 32, crushed to death when a tipper truck driver turned left across her path in October 2014.

The driver of the tipper truck involved, Vincent Doyle, was subsequently acquitted by a jury at the Old Bailey of causing her death by careless driving despite evidence suggesting he had not checked his mirrors.

Earlier in 2014, 32-year-old Victor Manuel Ben Rodriguez lost his life as a result of head injuries sustained when he was hit by a lorry while cycling through the same junction.

In the same week that the incident that claimed Mrs Gehlau’s life took place, the City of London Corporation, in a report compiled as part of its initial response to a consultation on the route of the Cycle Superhighway, said of Ludgate Circus: “It is already a location where many pedestrians ignore the pedestrian crossings.

Junction of New Bridge Street and Ludgate Circus (looking south, via Google Street View).PNG

“The proposed stagger crossings, reduced refuges island widths, excessive increases in wait times and the additional two-way cycle lane running through the junction, will add further risks and collisions, particularly to pedestrians.”

The report added: “Pedestrian crossings need to be simple, straightforward and useable. At Ludgate Circus, they need to be single stage crossings.”

In its response to the consultation, Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that the plans for Ludgate Circus had been changed to provide single stage rather than staggered crossings.

Local office workers who spoke to the London Evening Standard after Friday’s fatality did say however that some pedestrians were waiting on the kerbs of the Cycle Superhighway to cross the road, instead of the signalised pedestrian crossings, one of which is just yards from where the collision happened.

PR manager Anthony Gale said: “Normally I cycle that route every day but I got the train this morning. I think the superhighway does make it better but it is the [Ludgate Circus] junction itself that is the problem, as the traffic lights all change together and the pedestrians walk diagonally across it.

“Yesterday a pedestrian was nearly hit by a cyclist. She was on her phone. She waited on almost identically the same spot. The cyclist had to swerve around her and the cyclist was quite irate about it.

“What happens is that because the crossings are quite far apart, people see a little island [the superhighway kerb] and they try to cross. That is a big issue. Often you see pedestrians on their phone waiting to cross. 

“I think there is an issue with how packed the pavements tend to be. When pedestrians use the cycle lane they’re not necessarily aware of the cyclists - there can either be no cyclists or 40 or 50 cyclists coming towards them, because of the way they are held on Blackfriars Bridge. Everyone ends up crossing in a higgleldy-piggeldy way.”

Another local worker who spoke to the newspaper claimed that there had been eight incidents of differing severity in the area in the preceding months and said, “It can’t continue.”

She went on: “These deaths [sic] are avoidable” – possibly the source of the Mail Online’s assertion that there had been a number of pedestrian fatalities at the location.

“People hover near the traffic lights. There used to be an island in the middle where you could cross. Now it’s not obvious where the danger might be coming from. Often you see tourists jumping – they lose their judgement. It’s like a jinxed junction – it doesn’t work.”

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths and serious injuries near Ludgate Circus before Cycle Superhighway

Using TfL’s interactive London Collision Map, we analysed collisions between 2005 and 2015 in and around Ludgate Circus in which a cyclist or pedestrian was killed or seriously injured. The period pre-dates the opening of the North-South Cycle Superhighway.

We found that on what is now the route of the Cycle Superhighway itself (new Bridge Street-Ludgate Circus-Farringdon Road), two cyclists were killed and 10 seriously injured (one of the latter in a collision with a pedestrian who sustained slight injuries). Four pedestrians were seriously injured, all in collisions involving light or heavy goods vehicles.

During the same period, on Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill close to their junctions with Ludgate Circus, four cyclists and three pedestrians were seriously injured in collisions with road traffic vehicles.

NB: This article was amended on 27 October 2017 at the request of the Daily Mail to clarify that the article to which it refers was published on the website Mail Online and not in the newspaper.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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