London has a rising cycle casualty rate and Londoners find the experience of cycling to be increasingly scary (this is the subjective safety problem about which I've often written). The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, responded to recent calls for improved safety at the most dangerous junction in London, Elephant and Castle (89 cyclist injuries in two years) by suggesting that conditions are fine "if you keep your wits about you". This is a classic example of the fallacy which I call "I cycle, so you could cycle too". It's not a reasonable response. It's not applicable to the majority of the population.
There is already one invitation out for Boris Johnson to go and ride with the group in London tomorrow. I'd like to extend a second invitation to Boris. If he would like to come here and take a look, I'll quite happily show him what well designed infrastructure for cycling looks like. He won't see anything which looks like this:
Elephant and Castle - the most dangerous junction for cyclists in London. View Larger Map
Which lane would you pick to make a right turn ? View Larger Map
It seems that there is still a struggle ahead in London. The city seems unwilling to change its direction without a fight. While they say they are "working flat out to deliver" better safety for cyclists in the city, it's really more of the same as has been promised for the last thirty years.
The "action" that is planned is on a list predominantly of statements involving "awareness", "guidance", "training", "calling for more more to be delivered". What is really needed are fixes to the truly dreadful infrastructure of the city. This means more than adding a few advanced stop lines (a type of infrastructure so outdated that we don't have any left in Assen) and mirrors. It's not difficult to see why some people believe it's time to get angry.
By way of comparison, what is the most dangerous junction in the Netherlands ?
I recently discovered that the most dangerous junction in the whole of the Netherlands is in Groningen. There have been 14 incidents causing injury at this junction in the last three years. Those are figures not just for cyclists, but for all modes. Note that this is the worst junction in the whole country, and also that these are numbers for a period of three years. By comparison, Elephant and Castle's 89 injuries have been over two years, and these are just the injuries to cyclists. We don't know how many people were injured using other modes of transport. There is a huge difference between these two.
And what does the most dangerous junction in the Netherlands look like ?
The most dangerous junction in the Netherlands is busy for cyclists as over 14000 people ride along the Korreweg each day. I made a video. :
You can also take a look around the junction yourself by using Google Maps. How does this compare with the Streetview of Elephant and Castle ?
Grotere kaart weergeven
This junction has quite comprehensive cycle-paths and lanes in all directions, and motor traffic proceeds mostly at very moderate speeds. Compared with many other countries, this might initially not look bad at all. It certainly doesn't look anything like so daunting as Elephant and Castle.
Actually, nowhere that cyclists go in the Netherlands ever looks remotely like this huge junction at Elephant and Castle, or any of the other 9 junctions on today's ride in London. Such junctions, where they existed, have all been redesigned some years ago. London could have done this too by now, had they started taking notice thirty years ago.
I can imagine that some readers from outside the Netherlands will be surprised that this is the most dangerous junction. While it doesn't look as good as many of the other junction designs on this blog, it doesn't really look all that bad either. Perhaps in other countries it might be seen as a success story. And actually, in one sense this is a success story. The most dangerous road junction in the Netherlands is responsible for just 14 injury incidents for all modes of transport in three years.
An explanation of what is wrong here
This junction design doesn't meet current standards. It is not designed with sustainable safety principles in mind: it doesn't explain itself well, but confuses people using it, so they make mistakes.
While priorities are clearly marked on the road surface, the stop line for cyclists crossing this junction is too far back, making it difficult to accelerate across the road between motor vehicles going along the other road. This is why cyclists stop ahead of where they should, in the middle of nowhere.
There is a temptation for all modes to try to push through when the way isn't entirely clear, and everyone has to look in several directions at once to see what everyone else is doing.
These are the types of reasons why this particular junction has the unfortunate position of being the most dangerous in the whole of the Netherlands.
Change is coming
This junction has remained as it is for a surprising amount of time, but now it is obviously outdated. The Dutch press covered this story and made demands for this and other similar junctions to be changed. Current plans are for reconstruction in the near future as part of works when a new tram system is installed.
|Total traffic victims in the province of Groningen 1995-2008, all modes of travel.|
As you'll see, the trend for all injuries is downwards, as is that for deaths, though 2008 sadly had a higher death rate than the three previous years. A target was set ten years ago to reduce injuries and deaths to 425 and 35 per year by 2010. This target was met before schedule. Another target has been set to reduce the figures to 300 injuries and 25 deaths per year by 2020.
These figures are also for all modes of travel.
Read more about Road safety in the Netherlands.
When considering cycling injuries and deaths in Groningen vs. London, bear in mind that while Groningen's population is only about 190000 while London's is 8 million. However, Groningers cycle a lot more than Londoners. They make over 250000 cycle journeys each day. By comparison, 8 million Londoners make approximately 500000 cycle journeys per day.
Do you want to see this for yourself ? Book a study tour.