On 23rd Feb 2004, London bicycle messenger Sebastian Lukomski was run over at the junction of Lower Thames Street and Queen Street Place by a tipper lorry that was turning left into Queen Street Place from Lower Thames Street. His death was, in my opinion, a watershed moment in London’s cycling politics. It was one of the first London cycling fatalities to become a media event, thanks to 2 articles by journalist Graham Bowley, whose interest was sparked by the large crowd of London couriers who painted the road near the spot where Seb was killed. Graham’s articles, published in the Financial Times weekend magazine and the Evening Standard, highlighted the dangers of construction lorries, and also an apparent lack of action by the Mayor’s office on the problem.
Ever since, cycling fatalities resulting from collisions with lorries have received much higher levels of attention from everyone than previously, when they received no attention whatsoever outside of the coroner’s court and the funeral of the deceased. This attention has been translated by the London Cycling Campaign’s “space 4 cycling” campaign into political pressure for significant changes to the allocation of road space in London. It has also led to considerable efforts by TfL, the LCC and others to reduce the specific dangers posed by lorries to people cycling in London.
However, as I have said elsewhere, even though progress has been made, there remains a great deal of potential hazard from lorries to people cycling in London, and nowhere is this more apparent than when examining the junction where Seb was killed. In my opinion, it is one of the most dangerous junctions in central London because it is more or less a motorway, with very high volumes of through traffic, meeting a major cycling route, one of the Mayor’s Cycling Superhighways. Including Seb, 2 people have been killed by lorries whilst cycling in or near this junction in the last 10 years, and at least 2 more have been seriously injured.
After Seb’s death, an ASL was put in exactly the spot where Seb was run over, an extremely stupid change, in my opinion, given that the driver whose lorry ran over Seb would have seen Seb had he looked in his mirror. The ASL and associated feeder lane encourages cyclists to come up on the left, and stop slightly in front of traffic, which is exactly where you do NOT want to be.
If you examine the pavement on the south east corner, you can see from the damage done by HGVs to the surface, which indicates the frequency and care with which left turns onto Southwark Bridge are made. An ASL is not just inadequate in these circumstances, I would suggest that it is actually a hazard.
The junction has been reviewed and more changes have been proposed. Those changes will do nothing, or very little, to lessen the dangers of the junction. The ASL that I mentioned above is to be extended, for example. I would suggest that without a 2 phase signal, which allows cyclists to move away a lot sooner than the rest of the traffic, the ASL, even extended, is overall negative for safety.
Andrew Gilligan said earlier this year that his message to planners was ‘do it adequately or don’t do it all’. I would suggest that he, or someone from the Mayor’s office, needs to get involved in this review now before it goes any further.
There’s a lot more detail on Cyclist in the City blog, including diagrams, an itemisation and a link to allow responses to the consultation. Please do click through.