Mayor of London Boris Johnson says that the capital’s cyclists should wave their hands in the air like classical music conductor Sir Simon Rattle to make lorry drivers aware of their presence. The comments have been widely criticised by cyclists.
Speaking on his regular phone-in show hosted on LBC by radio host Nick Ferrari, Mr Johnson said women on bikes are more likely than men to be hit by left-turning lorries, because they tend to hang back.
“What you need to do is get in front of the vehicle,” said Mr Johnson. “Make sure the truck driver knows you are there, indicate, wave – be like Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic: show that you are there.”
The conductor, who has today been named music director of the London Symphony Orchestra from 2017, is best known to a non-classical musical audience for his role opposite Rowan Atkinson’s pianist at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Ferrari asked the mayor if he was telling people to take their hands off the handlebars, to which Mr Johnson replied: “No. You are stationary. This is at traffic lights.”
The mayor’s views were also reported on the Guardian website, and were widely criticised by cyclists in comments to that article.
Mr Johnson cited the death last month on Victoria Street of French national and mother of two Claire Hitier-Abadie, who was crushed to death by a left turning tipper truck almost a fortnight ago. A vigil was held there last night in her memory, and to call for safer streets for cyclists.
“Typically what will happen is that the traffic will be stationary,” said Mr Johnson. “It was an absolutely ghastly accident. The traffic was motionless and then everybody took off and a female cyclist just was caught by a lorry turning left. He simply didn’t see her,” he added.
Left-turning lorries, and tipper trucks in particular, are responsible for around half of cyclist fatalities in London, despite only accounting for around 4 per cent of the city’s traffic.
A disproportionate number of the victims in such cases are women, with past research conducted for Transport for London suggesting that female cyclists are more likely than males to ride along the kerb and put themselves in a position of danger.
Mr Johnson said on the LBC radio programme: “Any one of these deaths is one too many. If you go out on the streets of London today you will sMr Johnson’s comments were prompted by a caller to the show who said he was the lorry driver involved in the crash last October that claimed the life of a cyclist, named by Ferrari as 26-year-old German postgraduate student Janina Gehlau.
The caller maintained that the student had been priced out of London’s transport system and had needed to buy a bike to get around the city while on a three-month placement, adding that lorry drivers “come up against cyclists coming up our near side all the time, we beep the horn, we get the finger, we get abused.”
He added that while lorry drivers were now required to undertake ongoing training on safety issues, he added that “anyone can get up on a pushbike” with no training, and asked whether that situation would change.
Mr Johnson said: “Any one of these deaths is one too many. If you go out on the streets of London today you will see police out in force on Operation Safeway trying to get cyclists to obey the law.”
While that initiative, launched by the Metropolitan Police Service in November 2013 following the deaths of six cyclists on London’s streets in the space of a fortnight, also targets motorists including lorry drivers, it has been criticised for targeting cyclists for issues such as riding on the pavement or ignoring red traffic lights.
That initiative, launched by the Metropolitan Police Service in November 2013 following the deaths of six cyclists on London’s streets in the space of a fortnight, has been criticised for targeting cyclists for issues such as riding on the pavement or ignoring red traffic lights.
While both are illegal, as pointed out on road.cc by one cyclist who received a fixed penalty notice last week, at times the layout of junctions and presence of large vehicles means bike riders have to take action to remove themselves from danger.
The mayor added: “What we need to do is educate cyclists about the importance of obeying the law of the road and also to be aware of other road users, and one thing we are particularly concerned about is cyclists who get caught up in heavy goods vehicles particularly turning left.
“I’m afraid it’s very often female cyclists who appear to be the victims of these types of terrible accidents … maybe because women are naturally more cautious, or hang back more.”
The campaign group See Me Save Me, which is co-ordinated by road safety charity RoadPeace, has campaigned for lorry drivers to be better trained to make them aware of cyclists, and for it to be made compulsory for vehicles to have design and warning systems that eliminate blind spots.
However, it adds: “This may help save lives of some of the more inexperienced riders but it must be remembered that recent casualties have included many careful and experienced riders fully aware of which parts of the road to avoid.”
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Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.
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