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Flowers in foreground tied to railing of Battersea Bridge, motor traffic and bridge in background, following fatal collision with 27 year old woman cycling on 10 August 2023

PROTEST: Battersea: too little, too late

27 year old woman killed cycling on Battersea Bridge 10 August, LCC protest at bridge now 7 September. More details below...

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Protest, Battersea Bridge, 7 September, 6pm

Timings: Assemble 6pm, finish 7pm
Assembly point: “In Town” sculpture – this is a large paved garden area with dropped kerb entry to it at the southern side of the bridge. what3words: ///pillow.entry.record
Details: We’re asking members, supporters, residents – everyone – to attend what will be a solemn cycle protest across the bridge, marking the toll of ongoing collisions here. This date is one month after a 27 year old woman was killed while cycling across Battersea Bridge.

London Cycling Campaign will assemble to sombrely protest ongoing dangerous conditions on Battersea Bridge and in the surrounding area. We want rapid action, safe cycling and an end to the toll of serious and fatal collisions here from Transport for London, the Mayor, Wandsworth Council and Kensington & Chelsea Council. They have presided over delays and action in the area for decades despite the bridge and surrounds being infamous for dangerous and hostile cycling conditions. As a result, we’ve seen far too many horrific collisions on the bridge, at its junctions at each end and in the broader area. We want safe cycling here now – and we need an urgent look at conditions on both sides of the river and across the river across west London.


About the collision

There is a live appeal for witnesses for the crash. Any witnesses or anyone with any information is asked to call police on 020 8543 5157 or contact via Twitter @MetCC. Please quote CAD 1553/10Aug. To give information anonymously contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Just before 8am on 10 August 2023, an as-yet-unnamed 27 year old woman, a resident in Battersea, was killed in a collision involving a lorry driver while she was cycling northbound over Battersea Bridge. It is far too early to understand why this tragic incident has happened yet, and the fact the driver left the ‘scene’ should not in itself be cause for speculation.

What we can say for sure is a scheme to improve Battersea Bridge should have been in long before this incident. Transport for London (TfL) has spent years failing to deliver for Battersea Bridge and junctions at each end, arguing over details with councils on both sides of the river and faffing. Worse, even if the proposed scheme had gone in before now, it is likely it would not have saved this woman’s life. The proposals include nothing on the bridge itself. And this further highlights how badly TfL and some boroughs are getting it wrong right now.

Years of delay

Speaking to The Evening Standard, our Head of Campaigns, Simon Munk said:

“This bridge has got enough of a collision history and particularly the northern side… that the scheme that was proposed here should have been done years ago… We’re bitterly disappointed with the lack of progress on the scheme. We’re also bitterly disappointed with how weak the scheme is.”

In early January 2021, marketing manager Jack Ryan was hit and killed by a Range Rover driver at the junction of the north side of Battersea Bridge in Kensington & Chelsea. This junction had no signalised pedestrian crossing across the end of the bridge. Within months, TfL and K&C council had agreed following a petition with over 25,000 signees, to add the pedestrian crossing, and it was complete by November 2021. In July 2022, TfL then announced a consultation on further improvements to the junction and to junctions on the south side of the bridge in Wandsworth. Then in late 2022 there was more consultation. And in January 2023 LCC responded to this consultation highlighting that while we supported further changes proposed to the northern junction, the entire scheme was too weak.

What we didn’t say then was that the scheme should have been considered well before January 2021 when Jack Ryan was killed, it should have been delivered well before November 2021 when an extra pedestrian signal was added, it should obviously be in by now. But it isn’t.

The delays in part have happened because as the consultation report shows, local stakeholders, residents, and politicians seem more interested in the displaced traffic that might be caused by a ‘banned turn’ than they are in saving lives. Stakeholders who fought to delay or weaken the scheme should now be hanging their heads in shame rather than wringing their hands on social media, as some are. Sadly, though, TfL also has reason to feel shame over this scheme.

Transport for London at fault too

Analysis of collisions on the bridge and at the junctions at both ends shows there are serious collisions for those cycling across the last decade, including the last few years, that far outnumber collisions with pedestrians – and highlight how dangerous the bridge as well as the junctions is. The bridge itself features two lanes of motor traffic and no cycling facilities – and the two lanes appear to fall right in the middle of the width that TfL and the Department for Transport (DfT) refer to as a ‘critical issue’ – 3.25-4.00m.

This is the width where there is enough lane width that drivers think they can ‘squeeze past’ cyclists without moving in to the opposite lane, but where there isn’t enough width for them to do so safely. More the lanes on Battersea Bridge are bounded by high ‘trief’ kerbs designed to stop motor vehicles going onto the pavement or hitting the bridge. And are topped by old metal railings. And none of that was proposed to be changed for the upcoming scheme.

So not only has TfL sat on a vital safety scheme for years here, but it also has proposed a scheme that simply isn’t good enough – even by its own standards. The scheme also fails abysmally to do much of anything on the south side of the bridge in Wandsworth for cycle safety, or anywhere apart from the junction on the north side. But just looking at the bridge itself – whatever happened to kill a young woman needlessly on a known danger spot, the scheme TfL has delayed putting in, would not have saved her life anyway.

This is despite TfL’s own planning document, the Strategic Cycling Analysis (the new one is on p33 of the new Cycling Action Plan) showing clearly that TfL identifies Battersea Bridge as one of the top potential corridors in London for potential to grow cycling and swap car journeys for cycle journeys. Leaving a hostile and dangerous bridge hostile and dangerous just doesn’t cut it to fulfil that potential. And this is despite cycling flows already being near 4,000 journeys daily across Battersea Bridge (well over 10% of total vehicle flows). At this point, TfL’s own Cycle Route Quality Criteria says clearly that those cycling must be separated from this much motor traffic.

On top of that, this scheme, this bridge, is an abject failure in TfL’s ability to coherently act on planning London for active travel, to reduce road danger, for buses, for anyone really. River crossings in London are a key bottleneck to moving people and stuff around our city – they need looking at, all of them, urgently. But there is no sign of that happening.

What could be done?

Battersea Bridge has a scheme waiting for it that fails to tackle safety really, but chips away at road danger. Wandsworth Bridge, nearby, is getting new paint – but cycle lanes there may well be lost when it reopens (and meanwhile, its closure has added traffic to Battersea). And Hammersmith Bridge remains closed to motor traffic due to its decrepitude – despite the best efforts of local MPs to ignore the huge amount of motor traffic gone from their areas and get it reopened to cars (as well as people).

Similarly in east London, we have an open consultation for a ludicrous ‘shuttle bus’ to take cycles across the river when Silvertown tunnel opens (mainly for lorries), because basically there is no half-decent river crossing for cycling east of Blackfriars and Southwark Bridges. TfL urgently needs to decide which bridges are for what in London – and make sure they work well overall.

When it comes to Battersea, experts have already suggested that Albert Bridge could be closed to motor traffic (it already has a weight limit) and cycling could go there instead of Battersea – as it’s only 400 metres away. Instead, TfL’s latest report on Battersea Bridge suggested they might remove or improve the width restriction on Albert Bridge to “assist traffic flow” because some stakeholders suggested that.

There are of course other options: make Albert and Battersea opposing one-ways and use the space for wider pavements and cycle tracks; cantilever off the existing bridge to widen pavement and provide cycle track; a ‘bus gate’ that enables buses and cycling across one bridge only. And that’s just off the top of our heads.

There are always options. TfL needs to find them instead of listening to NIMBYs without evidence who do not care about people who cycle being injured or killed. TfL needs to plan bridge and tunnel crossings over the Thames coherently to enable walking, cycling, public transport, freight and as little private motor traffic as necessary in order to save not just lives but the planet.

Next steps from London Cycling Campaign

As well as the planned protest, for details see above, this blog highlights some of the ongoing work we have been doing to persuade TfL and City Hall that London urgently needs bolder schemes, more rapid delivery, coherent planning and to embrace innovation, rather than defaulting to a slow moving merry-go-round of consultation and schemes that favour inaction, business as usual and the status quo. People’s lives are at stake here. LCC continues to push the Mayor, TfL and the councils involved here and across London for more rapid and coherent action on these issues.

There is a live appeal for witnesses for the crash. Any witnesses or anyone with any information is asked to call police on 020 8543 5157 or contact via Twitter @MetCC. Please quote CAD 1553/10Aug. To give information anonymously contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

PROTEST FAQS

Police and new protest laws

LCC will do everything we can to ensure no one is arrested on this protest. We will not stop on the bridge or hold up traffic and we will stop at all red lights. We have informed the police the protest is taking place, we will follow police requests and we have rigorously assessed current protest legislation to ensure nothing we do will cause “more than minor” disruption to Londoners. We have also asked for a ‘legal observer’ from charity Green & Black Cross to attend. That said, we are in a new era when it comes to policing of protests and we cannot guarantee the police’s actions given this – the new legislation is so far untested. So before attending, please do consider if you have specific reasons (for instance you’re on a work visa in the UK) why an arrest might be particularly of concern to you. For more information to prepare for the highly unlikely scenario that you get arrested: https://greenandblackcross.org/guides/key-advice/

But please all, let’s have a nice, safe, legal ride – always do what marshals and/or the police tell you to do!

Assembly point

We meet at the public space southwest of Battersea Bridge at the “In Town” sculpture – this is a large paved garden area with dropped kerb entry to it at the southern side of the bridge. what3words: ///pillow.entry.record

Accessibility

The start point has a dropped kerb entry. The ride is very short – we may only be riding for about ten minutes in total, and will be led and marshalled, so it is suitable for all abilities. It finishes a short distance from the bridge in Cremorne Gardens. It also has a dropped kerb entrance, but some of the Gardens are cobbled.

What to wear

This will be a solemn protest ride crossing Battersea Bridge to highlight those seriously injured and killed on the bridge, and the ongoing road danger issues caused by the design of roads in the area. Please wear dark, muted colours and ride without lots of laughter and chatter.

Homemade placards

You might want to make placards or signs you can safely attach to your bike or yourself. Messages should focus on the bridge, how dangerous it is, and on the toll of ongoing road danger here. Please keep tasteful and avoid references to blood and gore!

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Mayor Sadiq Khan in 5* Direct Vision Standard lorry next to Walking and Cycling commissioner Will Norman