Women cyclists are more likely to be killed in traffic: TfL suppresses report


Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot, according to a study. The TfL study has not been published – a move that has angered many campaigners.

The report by Transport for London’s road safety unit was completed last July but has been kept secret. It suggests that some cyclists who break the law by jumping red lights may be safer and that cycle feeder lanes may make the problem worse.

The study claims that 86 per cent of the women cyclists killed in London between 1999 and 2004 collided with a lorry. By contrast, lorries were involved in 47 per cent of deaths of male cyclists. The findings help to explain why the growing popularity of cycling by city commuters is resulting in frequent deaths of young women in similar circumstances.

The death rate among women cyclists has increased since the report was completed, with two killed in collisions with lorries within 24 hours last month.

Amelia Zollner, 24, a Cambridge-educated scientist working at the Institute for Public Policy Research, was cycling to work in central London and had stopped at traffic lights in Russell Square next to a lorry.

She was killed when the lorry pulled away after the lights changed.

Rosie Wright, 26, worked close by at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and spoke with friends about her distress on learning that a young woman had died.

The next day she was killed by a lorry accelerating away from traffic lights.

The study states: ‘Women may be overrepresented in [collisions with goods vehicles] because they are less likely than men to disobey red lights.’ By jumping red lights, men are less likely to be caught in a lorry driver’s blind spot. Cyclists may wait at the lights just in front of a lorry, not realising that they are difficult to see. In more than half the fatal crashes, the lorry was turning left.

Cyclists may be deceived by a lorry swinging out to the right to give itself room to make a left turn. The study states that cycle ‘feeder’ lanes, which allow cyclists to overtake vehicles along the nearside kerb to get to the front of queues, may ‘exacerbate the problem’. It also says that pedestrian guard railings may have contributed to three of the deaths because cyclists became trapped between the railings and the lorry, leaving them no escape route.

Peter Wright, the father of Rosie and a vehicle safety expert who heads the commission which regulates safety in international motorsport, criticised TfL for failing to publish the study. ‘Rosie was reasonably cautious, which seems to be the problem. It seems that you need to be aggressive and assertive to survive as a cyclist,’ he said.

‘TfL’s attitude is unacceptable. ‘It should stop withholding the study because we need an open public debate about the findings to seek ways of preventing more deaths. There is something wrong if the only way you can survive on a bike is to skip the lights.’ Adam Coffman, an official at the Cyclists’ Touring Club, said: ‘Women cyclists tend to ride more slowly and are less comfortable doing things that feel risky. So, instead of positioning themselves out wide in the road where they can more easily see and be seen, they are more inclined to hug the kerb, a way of cycling that may feel safer but is in fact more risky.’

A TfL spokesman said the study had not been published because it was ‘produced solely to inform TfL policies’. He said that there was no direct evidence that women were more at risk because they obeyed red lights. TfL last month mounted a poster campaign to inform lorry drivers and cyclists of the dangers of collisions at junctions.

Advice to cyclists on how to avoid collisions with lorries:

  • If a lorry is in front of you, wait where you can see the mirrors until it is possible to pass it
  • You should pass a lorry only on the right and only when you are sure you have enough time and space to get far enough ahead for the driver to see you clearly before they start moving
  • If a lorry is behind you, ride where the driver has to consider your presence
  • Ride where lorries cannot pass you, or cannot pass you without changing their position on the road
  • HGVs are so dangerous to cyclists that they should be treated with extreme caution

Source: The London School of Cycling

Image:Sergios Daily

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