Wednesday 24 September 2008

Another London cyclist killed, today, by a left-turning lorry

Hat tip to Buffalo Bill

Update at 1 p.m. : There is nothing about this death on BBC Ceefax London news. The only cycling story is headed Cyclists urged to slow down in parks, a story repeated on the BBC London news website Celebrity dog owners Jenny Seagrove, Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman are urging cyclists to ride carefully in parks to avoid colliding with dogs. The Standard’s only cycling story today is also tied to celebrity: Former England football star Ian Wright had his bicycle stolen - yards from the spot where Conservative leader David Cameron had his taken in July.

ITN Teletext London news has nothing.

As far as these media outlets are concerned it appears yet another killing of a London cyclist by a lorry driver is not regarded as newsworthy. And while trawling the net to see if there was any news on today's fatality I came across stories of cyclists killed on Thursday and Friday.

Update 6 p.m.

Doesn't look like The Standard is going to mention it. And the only thing that has changed is BBC Ceefax London News has changed its headline to Dog-lovers call for safer cycling. In other words, more flat earth news.

On the rare occasions I watch the BBC TV breakfast show I am always struck by how much prominence is given to 'war on the motorist' stories and how the grinning presenters assume that 'we' all drive cars, 'we' all hate speed cameras and traffic wardens, and 'we' have all clocked up tickets for speeding.

Why not ask the head of BBC News why the death of a cyclist in central London today was not regarded as newsworthy? Her email address is:

Update, Thursday 25 September

It turns out that the cyclist who was crushed to death by a lorry in central London yesterday was a woman, not, as originally reported, a male cyclist. Today’s Standard has a report, though it’s largely ripped off from Moving Target, with the photograph nicked from the ITN London News bulletin.

In 2005, 20 cyclists were killed and 338 injured on London's roads. In 2006, 18 were killed and 349 injured and last year 14 died and 253 were injured. More than half of those killed are involved in accidents with lorries and experts fear the death toll could rise as construction lorries pack London's roads in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics. A Transport for London spokeswoman said cycle deaths since the Nineties were down 19 per cent despite a 91 per cent increase in cycling.

The TfL spokeswoman is an idiot. Cycling becomes safer the more people cycle and achieve a critical mass. So logically she should have said 'because of' not 'despite'. However, the statistic she quotes is a very dodgy one, since it refers to commuter cycling on selected major London routes. It does not hold true for London in general. In Waltham Forest in the daytime I can cycle for miles and never see another cyclist. That only changes early in the morning or in the early evening, when commuter cyclists appear. And declining casualty figures do not necessarily mean that roads are becoming safer (that myth was demolished once and for all by Robert Davis in Death on the Streets).

The latest fatality may supply further reinforcement for this:

Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot, according to a study. The report by Transport for London’s road safety unit was completed last July but has been kept secret. It suggests that some cyclists who break the law by jumping red lights may be safer and that cycle feeder lanes may make the problem worse.

Moving Target has more on cyclists and lorries and some practical advice and suggestions here.

As far as I can tell BBC News has shunned this story. Absurdly (but quite consistent with the theory that its top journalists have racked up scores of tickets for speeding and parking offences) it is making a major story out of the fact that a man in Sunderland is challenging Sunderland council’s parking enforcement on a technicality. Even though this is a Sunderland story, the BBC thinks this is London news.