Bow Roundabout Vigil 5th Anniversary

This is a guest post from Tower Hamlets Wheelers. See their original blog here. All welcome at the vigil. Event details here.

On Friday, 18th November Tower Hamlets Wheelers [1] will be commemorating the fifth anniversary of the vigil that we organised at Bow roundabout in 2011 [2] by meeting again at the roundabout at 18:00.

We are gathering again at the roundabout to: Commemorate the importance of the outcome of the 2011 event for campaigning (and campaigners), the need to keep lobbying for safe space for people cycling and, on the weekend of the World Remembrance Day, to remember all road traffic victims [3].

In 2011 we were angry that, within the space of three weeks, two people cycling had been killed at the roundabout and a third had suffered life-changing injuries at another junction in the borough despite promises from City Hall and TfL that roads would be made safer for those cycling [4].

Autumn that year was the start of the campaigning period for the 2012 London mayoral elections and Boris Johnson was standing for a second term. The vigil coincided with that opening week. Our publicising activity, taken up by the new power of tweeting campaigners, meant that media interest and coverage was high, strengthened by the news later in the week that the MP (Rushanara Ali) and mayoral candidates would be attending.

The political embarrassment for Boris Johnson was that one of those who died at Bow did so on the blue paint of one of his cycle superhighway (CS); Brian Dorling on CS2 on the morning of 24th October. And, as were all, whilst commuting. Brian long distance from Hounslow to the Olympic site, Lana Tereschenko (afternoon Friday 11th November) on her way home to Bow from Stratford [5] and Mary Bowers, nearly at the end of her journey from Stepney Green to the Sunday Times offices, hit at the junction of Dock Street and The Highway morning of Friday 4th November having turned off the CS3 track.

These were the users that the CS were designed by TfL to attract and cater for, confident cyclists who would lead the way in showing that commuting by bike was possible on London roads. They were all hit by left-turning HGVs and in two cases by drivers distracted by a conversation on a hands free device. Campaigners had been complaining that blue paint was not sufficient since the first brushstrokes had appeared and throughout 2011 a series of activities by cyclists had demonstrated that considerably more needed to be done City Hall politicians and TfL engineers. Over two thousand participants attended the third Blackfriars Bridge flashride [6] and the Bow vigil was planned returning from the 'tour of danger' ride; an east to west campaigning ride across central London of the junctions deemed by TfL as the 'ten most dangerous...' for cyclists [7]. (By the time we got to Trafalgar Sq the number was nearer 600.)

On afternoon of the 2011 vigil, having taken a battering all week in the press and with Johnson's ambition for a second term, TfL announced a review of major junctions on cycle superhighways ('built' and planned) as well as other major junctions [8]. This was the start of a process of broader recognition that infrastructure in London needed to be at the best international standards for those travelling by bike (or on foot).

Hence the importance for the later space for cycling and the safer lorry campaigns [9]; the successes of those and the 'still to be done' can be followed on the LCC blog posts.

Locally we still have much to do, although we recognise that introduction of 20mph signalled borough commitment to reducing road danger. Bow roundabout has not improved for people cycling, (death of Venera in 2013), and barely for pedestrians and we need a voice in the TfL future plans [10]. Construction lorries are still the major cause of cycling deaths and serious injuries in London, with fatalities and injuries yearly in Tower Hamlets from HGVs for all vulnerable road users. We need to see a local voice via borough politicians lobbying for earlier introduction of the better cab design and stronger enforcement of driving standards (of all vehicles) [11].

Meet Friday, 18th November at Bow roundabout 18.00 for 18.15

[1] London Cycling Campaign in Tower Hamlets
[9] &