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Safety work approved to improve "most dangerous junction in London" for cyclists

In 2015, a cyclist who had worked with the Queen in her role as a designer was killed in a collision at the junction, which will now get protected cycle lanes and early release traffic lights to better protect cyclists

A London bridge labelled the "most dangerous junction" for cyclists in the English capital will undergo major safety works.

Transport for London said improvement work on Lambeth Bridge is due to start next spring, the junction where in April 2015 designer Moira Gemmill — chosen by the Queen to lead the renovations of Windsor Castle — was killed while cycling in a collision involving a tipper truck being driven on the route.

The death prompted a die-in vigil to mark the fifth cyclist fatality in the opening four months of that calendar year, and campaigning to make the bridge's junctions safer for cyclists has continued ever since, TfL first announcing plans to improve the layout in 2017.

Improvements had previously been opposed on the grounds they might impact traffic flow, TfL now asserting it will have less of an impact on motorists as the number of drivers using the route has reduced since the pandemic.

The roundabouts at either end of the bridge will be replaced by junctions with traffic lights, which will have early release signals for cyclists, allowing those on bicycles to move away from a stop a few seconds before motorists. There will also be fully protected cycle lanes leading to the traffic lights.

The Evening Standard reports a "distinctive" palm tree in the centre of the northern roundabout will need to be removed before work can begin, and is to be relocated next month to Churchill Gardens in Pimlico. In a somewhat bizarre twist, TfL informed the public that the tree must be removed during the planting season so it has the best chance of surviving, meaning if the opportunity to remove it is missed then work will be delayed by a year.

The local government body responsible for the majority of the transport network in London accepted that in its current layout the roundabouts are "large and intimidating" and "undoubtedly create a negative perception of safety".

Lambeth Bridge (Google Maps)
Lambeth Bridge (Google Maps)

"At its heart, the scheme is about delivering much needed safety improvements," TfL's interim director David Rowe said. "Lambeth Bridge north is the most dangerous junction in London for cycle collisions.

"This is a comprehensive [project] on both sides of the river as well as on the bridge itself. The roundabouts on either side of the river are replaced by signalised junctions with dedicated cycle facilities and protected cycle lanes. At the same time as doing the works to improve safety, we are undertaking refurbishment of the bridge deck, and also doing security measures on the bridge. At the moment, there are temporary measures in place – those will be made permanent.

"The works are supported by Lambeth [council] as well as by Westminster [council]. There is a keen desire on both sides of the river for this to move forward."

In 2015, Colin Wing from the London Cycling Campaign questioned whether the bridge's junctions could ever be made safe for cyclists unless the volume of traffic is reduced, something TfL now says has happened at peak times due to the pandemic.

A year later, initial 'safety' plans to reduce the width of lanes were rejected by London's former cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan who said it would be better to do nothing than force cyclists into the path of motor traffic.

In February 2017, the driver of the tipper truck involved in the collision which killed Ms Gemmill was found not guilty of causing her death by careless driving, following a trial at the Old Bailey.

James Kwatia told the trial he did not feel his truck impact with the victim nor hear her scream. The driver – who had undertaken a cycling awareness course just weeks before the incident – said he had been aware of cyclists on the bridge and had checked his mirrors as he came to the roundabout but hadn't seen anyone.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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5 comments

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London270 | 4 months ago
2 likes

I pass through that North (West?) side roundabout twice a day on my bike and have always though it pretty smooth, though I am an experianced cyclist. The otherside is less good to be honest. 

I also pass though Battersea Bridge North and that makes even me a little uncomfortable. You may remember the one being reported on recently due to tragic events. 

Avatar
HoarseMann | 4 months ago
1 like

should put an end to this sort of thing https://youtu.be/iAgX6qlJEMc

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 4 months ago
0 likes

I know that junction well - the north side. I used to cross that regularly for a few years. The junction, when it flows, it actually quite fast and wide. There are cycle lanes between this bridge and Vauxhall bridge but going towards Westminster they are sparodic. The only plus being because there are police about all the time traffic tends not to bully cyclists.  

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hawkinspeter | 4 months ago
6 likes

I wish we took a more robust attitude towards safety. If a junction design is shown to be unsafe and especially after a cyclist (or other vulnerable road users for that matter) has been killed, the road should be temporarily closed to motor traffic until the junction is 'fixed'. I bet that would focus the authorities to fix it in less than eight years.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 4 months ago
3 likes

Ridiculous and impractical!  No country - never mind one with a decent economy - could afford such a thing and nor would its citizens stand for such restrictions on their freedoms. *

On the other hand, we do shut things temporarily when there have been crashes.

Accordingly, it just needs a sufficient number of martyrs... one per day, say, or maybe morning and afternoon crashes where the sweepers are efficient.

* No, the Dutch don't actually do this.  In fact - they're also slow to take things on board especially if they've put in a "cool new design".  In their defence most of their designs are already substantially safer than the UK once you allow the for much greater volume of vulnerable road users and that they don't exchange safety for convenience.  (Which is why they have people cycling!)

What they do is they have the principle of examining each crash in the context of the rules and infra. Not just "which road user's fault is this" (which is the focus in the UK and the US).  They've actually got this built in to their ethos from the top down (as part of e.g. the Sustainable Safety philosophy - reporting and feedback is a part of that).

I had hoped that the Road Safety Investigation Branch would be the UK body to try to move forward on this.  Likely that will quietly never come about now though.  If the PM's not just "Johnsoning" then they will certainly make no efforts to bring it into existence - like the systematic review of road law.  Probably the best we could hope was that it would be tasked to produce "guidelines"!

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