Sunday 14 October 2012

Boris Johnson, Transport for London and the killing of Hichame Bouadimi

Yesterday’s Guardian carried a long piece about the recent killing of five year old pedestrian Hichame Bouadimi on St George’s Road, Southwark, asking Why are road deaths in the UK on the rise again? 

Unfortunately the journalist lets two major London agencies off the hook. One is the Metropolitan Police, which has always been institutionally car-supremacist. The Met is contemptuous of cyclists and pedestrians, and has only ever had a minimal interest in enforcing road traffic law. You can speed to your heart’s content in London, and chat away on your mobile phone, and your chances of being apprehended by a police officer are very, very remote. Nor is the Met at all interested in curbing the excesses of the out-of-control road haulage industry. The Met's slogan ‘Working Together For a Safer London’ seems like a calculated insult. Indeed

Drivers in London have a chance of being prosecuted once over a 50-year lifetime of driving.

This indicates that at present there is almost no chance of drivers who endanger cyclists (and others) being charged or prosecuted. 

However, in this particular instance the primary blame for this latest tragedy rests firmly with Transport for London. It was the infrastructure that created the conditions for the violent death of this child. And TfL is resisting all efforts to change direction. It remains firmly committed to the ‘smoother traffic flow’ agenda.

But Boris Johnson should not be exempted from responsibility either. His signing-up to the LCC’s ‘Go Dutch’ agenda was plainly a desperate piece of opportunism when he was struck by a last-minute anxiety that he might, after all, lose to Ken Livingstone. In spite of all Johnson’s rhetoric nothing tangible has actually changed yet. 

Take TfL’s proposals for the Lambeth Bridge roundabout, for example.

Southwark cycling blogger Charlie Holland even uncannily anticipated this latest fatality when back in January he denounced

the five-lane one-way motorstrosity that St George's Road has become

and remarked

Unfortunately TfL are using their time and energy on piddling interventions rather than on measures that will make a real difference.

This road, with three schools on one side and a park on the other, should swiftly be made two-way and cycle-friendly. 

Charlie Holland has also written about the aftermath of this fatal collision here.