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From: The Socialist issue 799, 19 February 2014: Floods Chaos: End cuts now!

Search site for keywords: Transport - Cycling - Cyclists - Police - London - Britain - Planning - Public transport - Boris Johnson

Cycling deaths must be stopped

Britain's cyclists have seen another bad week for safety with recent fatalities including two cyclists killed by a car being chased by the police.

The police responded to the last surge in fatalities in London cycling by ordering a clampdown on cyclists with officers being ordered to fine at least ten cyclists a month. Nick Auvache investigates

Cycling is a healthy form of exercise and essential for many people to travel to work, college and school.

Sometimes, however, cycling can be dangerous. Last November six cyclists died in two weeks on London's streets.

Boris Johnson, London's Tory Mayor, claims cycling is very safe and there is little he can do to reduce deaths and accidents on our streets.

But, the Economist says, 118 cycling deaths were registered in 2013, the highest figure since 2007.

In London cycling accidents represented 22% of road casualties in 2012, up from 10% in 2006. In 2012 Holland saw only 22 deaths for every billion cycle miles while in the UK there were 38 deaths.

Johnson, though, saves his sympathy for the business community, who he claims, could be disadvantaged by the increasingly popular demand for restricting the movement of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in London, especially during peak hours.

Johnson said the real problem was cyclists wearing headphones. His fellow Tory, Lord James, claimed that cyclists were "longing for drivers to run them down"!

But measures can and should be taken to make roads safer, especially for cyclists. Johnson opposes restricting HGVs' movement in city centres now but brought in similar restrictions when it suited him during the Olympics.

Johnson's "war on cyclists" tries to deflect attention away from his disastrous cycling plans which, says London Assembly Member Darren Johnson, contributed significantly to the recent "cull" of cyclists in London.

Rachel Aldred, a Westminster University planning expert, said that poor planning often promotes dangerous behaviour by cyclists.

Blaming cyclists for recent accidents is a blatant attempt to put business profits before safety. More cycle lanes should be built with physical barriers protecting them from other traffic and HGVs should be restricted.

We also need massive investment in public transport to improve quality and reduce the costs. Money should be 'no object'.

This too would make the roads safer for all users. However these demands will need to be taken up not just by individual cyclists but also by the workers' movement.

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The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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Article dated 19 February 2014

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