A cyclist has lost her life this morning following a collision involving a lorry at a junction on London’s Holborn gyratory, where six other people have been killed while riding bikes since 2008, all in crashes in which large vehicles were involved – and all in an area where promised safety improvements have not yet been put in place.
The fatal crash took place shortly before 9am this morning at the junction of Theobald’s Road and Southampton Row. The Metropolitan Police said that the driver of the lorry remained at the scene but had not been arrested.
Besides forming part of the Holborn Gyratory, the junction lies on one of the city’s busiest cycle commuting corridors to and from Islington and Hackney to the West End.
But despite efforts campaigners to make the route safer, and plans from Transport for London and Camden Council to introduce protected infrastructure, it remains intimidating for anyone on a bike.
Including today’s victim, five cyclists have now been killed at or very close to the scene of this morning’s crash.
In September 2008, 31-year-old Wan-Chen McGuiness from Hackney died from multiple injuries at the junction following a crash involving a lorry, where Francis Golding died in hospital from injuries sustained in November 2013 after he was crushed by a left-turning coach driver.
A Metropolitan Police officer said at the inquest into Mr Golding’s death that there had been 29 collisions involving cyclists, three of them fatal, during the previous decade.
At an inquest into his death, Coroner Mary Hassell criticised Camden Council for failing to make the junction safer and issued a Prevention of Future deaths report.
In October 2018, the local authority banned motorists from making a left turn at the junction, while permitting cyclists to do so.
The route across Southampton Row from Theobalds Road towards the West End continues into Vernon Place, where in June 2009, student Maria Fernandez, aged 24, suffered fatal injuries when a left-turning bin lorry driver hit her at the junction with Bloomsbury Square.
That same junction was also the scene of the death in February 2015 of Federica Baldassa, aged 26, who was killed when she was dragged under the wheels of a lorry whose driver was turning left.
The two junctions form part of the Holborn Gyratory, where two other cyclists have lost their lives in the past 10 years, both fatal crashes happening outside Holborn Underground station.
In July 2013 Alan Neve, aged 54, was killed by a red light jumping tipper truck driver, Barry Meyer, who had been banned from driving on five occasions and twice convicted of drink-driving. Meyer was jailed for three and a half years for causing death by careless driving and driving while uninsured and unlicensed.
Then, in August 2018, Dr Peter Fisher, the Queen’s homeopathic physician for 15 years, was killed in a crash involving a lorry operated by CCF, a sub-brand of builders’ merchants Travis Perkins. The 67-year-old, a world expert in homeopathy, had been commuting to work.
Dr Fisher’s death prompted London Cycling Campaign to hold a vigil at the junction the following week, just as it had done after the death of Mr Neve five years earlier.
In January 2019, in a statement read out at the inquest into his death Dr Fisher’s sister, Susie Herne, said: “This accident led to a tragic and unnecessary waste of life.
“In order to save further precious lives we urge the Mayor of London to urgently address the issue of cycle safety by looking at people-prioritised streets.”
Two months later, in March 2019, Transport for London (TfL) and the London Borough of Camden announced a £12.6 million overhaul of roads in the area to make them safer for cyclists pedestrians.
While some schemes in Bloomsbury have been built, it appears that the pandemic has halted progress on implementing the changes planned for the Holborn gyratory, acknowledged by TfL as “one of London’s most intimidating junctions with high numbers of collisions, inadequate footway space and poor cycling facilities.”
It said at the time that the project would “remove the gyratory and introduce protected cycle lanes along High Holborn and Theobalds Road,” adding that “Sections of New Oxford Street and Great Russell Street will be closed to motor vehicles and a section of Bloomsbury Way will become bus and bike only.”
The project was to have been mainly financed under TfL’s Liveable Neighourhoods programme, which is currently on pause pending confirmation of future funding.
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.