Two years ago, when the news broke that a female cyclist in her 30s had been killed at Bow roundabout, my dad says his first thought was that it was me.
My parents tend to keep their fears to themselves, so I didn’t actually find this out until it had been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was alive and well – in other words, after I’d phoned them. Equally, while I’m sure the news this past week has had my mum lying awake at night worrying about me, I haven’t heard a peep out of them.
Because, let’s face it, for the parent of a cyclist in London, this has not been a good week.
Four cyclists killed in eight days. An equal number seriously injured, including two just today.
I’ve just come back from this evening’s Space4cycling protest, organised by London Cycling Campaign in response to the latest death – an as-yet unnamed woman dragged under the wheels of a lorry this morning at almost exactly the same spot as Svitlana Tereschenko was killed two years ago.
Despite the cold, dark night, despite the short notice and despite the location – I imagine I wasn’t the only one for whom getting to Bow roundabout this evening involved a massive detour – I was one of around 1000 cyclists who showed up to pay their respects and to share their anger.
There were so many cyclists, in fact, that we formed a complete chain of bikes all the way round the roundabout. After a slow lap, there was a moment’s silence while Ann Kenrick, Chair of London Cycling Campaign, read out the roll call of those who had been killed or seriously injured while riding a bike in the capital’s streets over the past week.
By chance, as Ann read this list, I found myself standing on almost the exact spot where this morning’s collision took place. Hearing the names, listening to the descriptions of what happened and where, and imagining the terror of the woman who, less then 12 hours earlier, had been killed right where I was standing, was moving beyond words.
I was – and still am – both saddened and extremely angry.
Why does this keep happening? Why are cyclists being encouraged to use a route that’s quite patently not safe? Why, even after three deaths there, hasn’t it been made safe? How is that hitting a cyclist from behind and crushing them underneath a lorry isn’t even an arrestable offence? Why are so many lorries even allowed on London’s streets during rush hour? Why does it feel like a cyclist being killed is seen as just one of those things that happens? Why isn’t more being done to make cycling safer?
Boris may think his ‘interventions to make cycling safer are working’, and yes, it may be true that as a percentage the death toll is going down. But four deaths in eight days – 12 in total so far in 2013 – is still too many.
For the families and friends of all the cyclists killed, for the parents whose worst fears have been realised, and for the cyclists themselves, something has got to be done – and soon. How many more cyclists have to die?