London cycling fatalities – rising problem or tragic coincidence?

Cyclists travelling down a bus lane during a city rush hour

During the past two weeks, there have been six cycling deaths on the streets of London.

That's quite a phenomenal figure, especially considering how government records reveal there were, on average, less than two fatal accidents per month throughout the whole of 2012.

But can this be put down to a simple case of tragic coincidence, or is there a deeper lying cause?

There have been impassioned responses from all angles in society, with some cycling campaigners targeting their fervent anger at the perceived failures of the authorities, most notably London mayor and chief advocate of cycling, Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, there have been instances throughout the heated environs of social media where some have called for standardised testing for all cyclists, whilst Olympic champion Chris Boardman has demanded that HGVs be banned from London at peak times.

Regardless of the viability of implementing such proposals, it is clear that something must be done to increase road safety, especially after London has seen a boom in the number of cyclists taking to its roads since the start of the current century.

Ensuring the safety of over half a million cyclists in one city per day is not an easy task. There are so many disparate factors that can affect how an accident can occur, that it is impossible to account for every possibility.

Some schemes already implemented include the boosted right of way for London cyclists (loosely based on the highly successful Dutch model), though consideration still has to be made to keep the heavy flow of cars, buses and motorcycles moving through the capital’s tarmac arteries.

Such concessions evidently cause sticking points, as extreme viewpoints from society’s road users can often pour total blame on their target of ire, thus some drivers and cyclists tending not to be so open to the idea of compromise causing a stalemate.

Somewhat serendipitously, this week is Road Safety Awareness Week; co-ordinated by the charity Brake and trending on social media via the hashtag #RSW13.

Brake’s campaign is to highlight the devastation caused by driver distraction on our roads and to encourage a change of attitudes to our fellow road users.

Driving without due care and attention is the biggest cause of accidents in the UK, and this is not restricted to certain vehicles – it applies to cars, cyclists, lorries and motorcycles alike.

So these recent events may just be a rotten run of luck on our capital’s crowded roads, but no death should ever be treated as just a number; one that is allowed to pass under the radar if it is considered to be at an ‘acceptable’ enough level.

These fatal accidents are indeed the sign of a rising problem and a wake-up call for everyone throughout the country. It is not a time to be taking sides and blaming each other – it is a time to take action.

Whilst we will all no doubt be in agreement that these losses of life are tragic, it is an opportunity to do something positive:

If you haven’t already, adopt Brake’s on-road attitudes and always devote your utmost concentration and attention when travelling.

We all use our nation’s highways, and for the sake of our fellow man, we should be using them better.