Are London’s roads really getting safer – or are we just facing new dangers?

The overall number of road casualties has gone up by 5 per cent under Boris Johnson


Last week Transport for London released its road safety figures for London’s roads in 2014. A mixed picture has emerged. The good news for cyclists is that, following year-on-year increases in the total number of cyclists killed and seriously injured (KSI) between 2009 and 2012, the toll has fallen for the second year running.

The proportion of cycle trips during which a cyclist is killed or seriously hurt – recorded as ‘KSIs per million journey stages’ – has decreased, meaning that more of us get to and from our destinations without injury, as shown in the graph below.

Graph 1
(click to enlarge)

These figures on deaths and major injuries may provide some reassurance to Londoners enjoying a summer of cycling in the capital. But the mayor’s triumphant press release glossed over the 73 per cent jump in slight injuries to cyclists in 2014 when compared to the 2005-2009 average.

The escalating slight injury toll provides belies the aggressive nature of the traffic in London and the struggle cyclists face to negotiate roads where the ‘smoothing’ of traffic flow is prioritised over the safety of bikers and walkers.

Let’s not forget that Boris Johnson adjusted traffic signal timings to give priority to vehicles and less time for pedestrians to cross the road.

Perhaps of even greater cause for concern are statistics on London pedestrian casualties. Big adverse changes have taken place over the past year. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of pedestrians suffering injury in a collision with a car increased by 11 per cent and by 5 per cent in collision with an HGV.

And even though they comprised 18 per cent of all casualties across all transport modes in 2014, pedestrians accounted for 36 per cent of the KSIs recorded across all modes, meaning that pedestrians suffer a disproportionate level of damage as a consequence of a collision.

Graph 2
(click to enlarge)

Source: TfL factsheet – ‘Casualties in Greater London during 2014’

This shows how vulnerable pedestrians still are on London streets, and shows why the mayor should be taking bold steps to keep them safe.

There are positive developments that may help reverse the toll. TfL has been developing new technologies which allow signalled crossings to count cyclists and pedestrians who are waiting.

The pilots look successful, which means the next mayor should roll this out across London, so that traffic lights change depending on how many people want to use them. Priority based upon people, not vehicles, is what we need.

A broad look back at the outgoing mayor’s record on road safety shows that the overall number of casualties of all severities has gone up by 5 per cent under Boris Johnson. This is in contrast to the previous mayor Ken Livingstone, who reduced the toll by 38 per cent in eight years.

In real numbers that means over 2,500 more people were injured last year than in 2008, the year Boris Johnson became mayor.

The next mayor must draw up an ambitious plan based on 20mph being the norm for most roads. They must take tough action to get unsafe drivers banned from our roads, provide safe, segregated cycle lanes for all ages and abilities, and get on with fixing all of London’s treacherous junctions.

Darren Johnson is a Green Party member of the London Assembly. Follow him on Twitter

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