Cyclist deaths in Southwark: "carnage has to end" says councillor

Bermondsey councillor Mark Gettleson has called on Southwark Council to show "political bravery, responsibility and vision" to prevent more cyclists being killed in collisions on local roads.


Liberal Democrat Cllr Gettleson, who represents Grange ward, was speaking during a themed debate on the environment at last Wednesday's meeting of the borough's council assembly.

"As vehicles account for 16 per cent of Southwark's carbon emissions, increasing the number of safe cycle journeys and decreasing the number of car journeys must be one of our top priorities for reducing our emissions overall," he said.

"Many of you will know that this is a very personal issue for me.

Last December ... Ellie Carey was cycling from her home in Peckham to London Metropolitan University where she had been studying for a Masters in international development.

"Ellie never made it to north London that day. As she cycled up Tower Bridge Road towards Abbey Street – a junction already known by many of us to be so dangerous – Ellie's bike was hit by a lorry. She died from head injuries.

"Four days later, when I met her family, they said that they wanted to make sure that, in their own words, 'something positive came out of her needless death'.

"We held a vigil on Tower Bridge Road attended by 200 people. We have over 800 petition signatures online for immediate action to improve the junction where she died.

"Ellie is not the first, and – much as it pains me to say it – is unlikely to be the last.

"My ward in particular has been the scene of too much tragedy. Four cyclists have died in the last two years within a two-minute walk of my home on Tanner Street.

"The carnage has to end. This is not a party issue, but it does require political bravery, responsibility and vision.

"Few things can be more beneficial than cycling as an affordable form of transport that improves health and fitness whilst securing our planet.

"More cycle journeys and fewer car journeys, by definition, make our roads safer for cyclists and less congested.

"And what is this administration's vision? A one per cent increase in the cycling rate by 2016.

"From an utterly pathetic three per cent to an utterly pathetic one per cent more.

"No: we have to be bold. Hackney already has cycling rates of 10 per cent. Why, in the next decade, shouldn't we be able to do that?"

Earlier in the debate the council leader, Peter John, had defended the Labour administration's approach to cycling.

"This administration is not anti-cycling at all," he said. "It is a priority for us and that is why we have set realistic targets for increases in cycling."

He continued: "Are there things that we and Transport for London can do to make the lives of cyclists in our borough easier? Yes, there are. We will work with TfL to ensure that.

"Of course we deeply regret any fatality of a cyclist which occurs on our roads and we will do everything we can to ensure they are not repeated."

Southwark environment cabinet member Cllr Barrie Hargrove had earlier fielded a public question from environmental campaigner and former Southwark Lib Dem councillor Donnachadh McCarthy who had called for the council to support a Dutch-style network of cycle lanes in the borough and criticised the lack of proposals for any new segregated cycle routes.

The cabinet member pointed out that Southwark has the eighth highest level of cycling out of the 33 London boroughs and said that council policy would continue to focus on equipping cyclists with the skills to interact with other traffic rather than building a network of segregated routes.

"We don't have an anti-cycle lane policy," said Cllr Hargrove. "We will judge every road and every street as it comes.

"I think that's a sensible way to go forward rather than having a dogmatic approach."

• Listen to the council's themed debate on the environment in full: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

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