The first “safer cycling day” for women in the City of London is being held today after a spate of lorry deaths and concern at the disproportionate number suffering serious injuries.
A total of 30 women cyclists were seriously injured in the Square Mile between 2010 and 2014 and two died in hospital after collisions – Maria Karsa at Aldgate in September 2013 and Janina Gehlau at Ludgate Circus last October.
Ying Tao was killed at Bank in June. A prosecution is underway in relation to Ms Gehlau’s death. City police are continuing to investigate the collision that killed Ms Tao.
Over the same 2014-2014 period, 75 male cyclists were seriously injured and two were killed, despite men making about three times as many bike journeys as women.
The City of London Corporation wants to encourage more women to ride to work as part of a target of having 10 per cent of journeys made by bike. Today’s events include a conference and an “Exchanging Places” event until 4pm in Guildhall Yard that will enable women to experience the “blind spots” that limit the view of cyclists and pedestrians from the cab of a HGV.
The corporation’s officers are also working on longer-term plans to improve safety at Bank, with one of the options understood to involve full pedestrianisation of the area.
Marianne Fredericks, chairman of the corporation’s streets and walkways committee, said: “It’s a real eye-opener as a pedestrian as well as a cyclist to be able to see what the driver can and cannot see when he is perched in his cab. Knowledge is power and if you cannot see him, he cannot see you and you should keep your distance.
“Far too often we have heard about the serious incidents and dreadfully sad deaths of women cyclists across the capital over the past few years. Events like today won’t solve the problem overnight but does serve a dual purpose. It will not only help raise awareness of how cycling can be a great form of transport… but also highlight that unfortunately it is not risk-free.”
The corporation has faced criticism from cycle campaigners for the failure to improve safety at Bank and for failing to implement in full Mayor Boris Johnson’s “quietway” routes.
But officials say that have been working for 18 months drawing up proposals for Bank to put to Transport for London. If approved by City politicians, the proposals could be put to public consultation in a year. There is also hope of interim changes being introduced “sooner rather than later”.
Changes to the road layout at Holborn Circus are believed to have contributed to a recent reduction in cyclist injuries, while safety improvements at Aldgate are due to be completed by Autumn 2016.
A crackdown on rogue cyclists by City of London police, codename Operation Atrium, saw 502 fines issued in the last six months for red-light jumping and cycling on the pavement. More than 300 of the fines were rescinded when the cyclists attended an Exchanging Places event.