The Tragic Roundabout
24 November 2011
As you may already know if you live locally, the London Road roundabout on the A316 in Twickenham has no pedestrian or cycle crossings on the London Road. This makes it very difficult to cross East-West, especially in rush hour, leaving cyclists and pedestrians forced to choose between a detour to the nearest crossing, or darting between fast moving multi-lane traffic. For older pedestrians this is a considerable distance, making the London Road a major barrier to mobility. For cyclists, it blocks what would otherwise be a safe cycle route across the whole length of the borough, running along the A316. The rest of the route has been constructed at considerable expense - but at London Road roundabout cyclists are confronted with a "Cyclists Dismount" sign and a busy road with no crossing in sight in either direction.
Alongside the Richmond Cycling Campaign, we've been calling for TfL to fix the situation for pedestrians and cyclists, ideally by providing proper toucan crossings across London Road. TfL visited the site in July 2011, but there has been no further news on their plans, although they did apparently find that any crossing would impact on traffic flow (this was the reason back in 2008 for their rejection of any traffic light controlled roads at the site). They also admitted that the Mayor's/TfL's policy of allowing no additional traffic lights was in direct conflict with getting more people cycling. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, some local politicans continue to express concerns at the safety risk for pedestrians and cyclists at this roundabout. The Green Party's mayoral candidate (and committed campaigner for cycling), Jenny Jones, visited the roundabout in October as part of her cycle tour of London to add her support to the campaign.
This year has seen a number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths across London, at locations which had been previously highlighted as being unsafe, most notably at Bow and Kings Cross.
Sadly, the Mayor appears to prioritise traffic flow over peoples' lives. There have been two cyclist deaths on the unsafe cycle superhighway at Bow roundabout within just three weeks. As in Twickenham, TfL rejected a pedestrian crossing on the basis of disruption to traffic flow (although in Bow they decided to build the cycle lane regardless, against their own safety advice), so cyclists must push through fast-moving traffic. At Elephant and Castle, there were 89 casualties in accidents in the years 2008-2010, including 36 cyclists, and one fatality (a cyclist), but design plans put forward by Southwark to improve safety have been blocked by TfL because it would slow traffic.
The Mayor claims that road and infrastructure design is not the answer, preferring to rely on education and training. This is contrary to all the evidence (e.g. from Holland, Denmark, Germany, and Canada), as well as TfL's own Safety Action Plan which commits to (and therefore accepts the need for) investment in infrastructure as a major contribution to improving road safety. We need a multi-layered approach.
Surely, if the safety of vulnerable road users is so clearly at risk, TfL/The Mayor has a responsibility to do something about it? Meanwhile casualties on London's roads have started to increase, and some TfL officials are now telling cyclists to stop using the badly designed Bow Cycle Superhighway only 5 months after it opened!