Cyclists have formed a ‘human barrier’ to protect other cyclists from vehicles in protest at the lack of action to improve safety on one of London’s most dangerous routes.
Campaigners protested in Old Street on Thursday to highlight the dangers of the Old Street to Holborn “Clerkenwell boulevard” route on World Car Free Day.
Camden Cycling Campaign and Cycle Islington say there has been “eight years of inaction”, despite promises from Camden and Islington councils and Transport for London in the wake of hundreds of injuries and a number of deaths around Holborn roundabout .
Since 2016, there have been 201 cyclists killed, including 30 seriously injured, on the corridor from Old Street to Holborn, according to CycleStreets’ BikeData.
Recent cycling deaths in Holborn include Dr Marta Krawiec, 41, a pediatrician who died in August last year, and Shatha Ali, 39, a former city attorney, who was killed in March. Both died in a collision with a truck.
Under the terms of its £1.2bn government bailout last month, TfL must spend £80m a year on “active travel” – walking and cycling. Activists want some of these funds to go to Old Street.
The “make the lane” protest, in which activists push into the road to form a corridor for cyclists to travel through, is a repeat of the action from three years ago.
Thursday’s protesters included Victoria Lebrec, who lost her leg in a horrific dump truck accident in 2014, as well as London Assembly Green party members Sian Berry and Caroline Russell.
Up to 6,000 cyclists are believed to use the route daily, despite the fact that it does not have any protected cycle lanes.
Steve Prowse of Camden Cycling Campaign: “We held a protest here in 2019 and we were promised action. Since then, more people have been injured.
“We are tired of waiting for action to be taken in this corridor, one of the busiest for cyclists in London, despite the dangers here and the lack of safe cycling infrastructure. Camden and Islington councils have promised us action. How many more people must be injured or killed before it arrives?
Before the latest protest, an Islington cabinet member said the council was “developing plans to close Old Street and Clerkenwell Road to direct traffic”. Nothing happened.
Eilidh Murray of Cycle Islington said: “If the Mayor’s and our councils’ commitments to the climate crisis and to a ‘Vision Zero’ of no more deaths on the roads are anything to go by, then a safe space for cycling is urgently needed here.”
An Islington council spokesperson said: “Council is currently working, alongside TfL and Camden Council, on proposals to introduce segregated cycle lanes in the corridor, to make cycling easier and safer whilst protecting bus travel times.
“Given the corridor’s status as one of London’s most heavily used bus and cycle corridors, designing these ambitious proposals is likely to be challenging, complex and time-consuming, involving the redesign of several key junctions.”
Camden cabinet member Adam Harrison said he had a Vision Zero goal of ensuring no one is killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads by 2041.
He said: “However, we know there is still a lot to do: we want to build a network of safe bike routes across the district, which should also be linked to similar changes in neighboring districts.
“One of our planned routes is Theobald’s Road – Clerkenwell Road. We intend to build the Theobald’s Road section as part of the Holborn Liveable Neighborhood project, which is still in its infancy and is dependent on large-scale financing.
“For the Clerkenwell Road section, in 2023 we intend to consult on the replacement of the current intermittent ‘advisory’ cycle lanes with segregated lanes, as well as making improvements for pedestrians and cyclists where the road meets Gray’s Inn Road.” and Rosebery Ave.
TfL’s £45m conversion of the Old Street roundabout, which includes cycle lanes, has been delayed and has increased the cost, and the work is not due to finish until spring next year.
Helen Cansick, Head of Healthy Streets Investment at TfL, said: “We are determined to reduce the danger to people cycling in London and new cycling infrastructure will play a vital role in this.
“Our recent funding agreement with the Government makes it clear that investment in walking and cycling will continue to be important. Although this agreement gives us less money to spend on active travel compared to pre-pandemic levels, we are working closely with municipalities to see where we can best focus to make the roads safer.
“The roads along this corridor are controlled by Islington and Camden, who would be responsible for working with their residents to develop the necessary changes to make them safer.
“We know that making this corridor safer is very important to everyone who bikes here and we will continue to work with both councils to support the development of these proposals.”
*Other events to mark World Car Free Day include the transformation of a former service station on Borough Road into a ‘cycling haven’ by the Brompton bicycle firm.
A poll of 1,000 Londoners published today found that 61 per cent supported the idea of a once-a-week car-free day in the capital. Eighteen percent of those surveyed were against the idea.
Oliver Lord, head of the UK Clean Cities Campaign, said: “It is clear that Londoners want more car-free days and more often. I don’t understand why they happen so often in places like Paris and New York, but we have to beg to have them once a year in London if we’re lucky.”