Friday, 9 September 2011

Accidental death of cyclist on Lewes Road: safer cycle lanes on A roads are needed

In edition no 88 of Bricycles Newsletter, Tony Green provided a report on the inquest into the death of cyclist Joanna Walters on the Lewes Road in June 2010. The verdict was accidental death.

But we can, and need to make urban A Roads safer for cyclists - especially where they are designated cycle routes.

Mr Green is Treasurer and Membership Secretary of cycle campaign organisation Bricycles. He wrote: "Jo’s death was a terrible accident, which almost certainly would not have happened if there had been a proper barrier between the cycle track and the road. Will anything be done to make this location safer for cyclists and pedestrians?"

He wrote that the cycle lane conformed to standards when it was built, so "we’ll probably just carry on hoping another tragedy won’t happen. Although much lip service is now paid to cycling there remains little evidence of it being taken seriously by the authorities".

Joanna was cycling along Regional Cycle Route 90 which connects Brighton with Lewes and takes in Sussex and Falmer Universities. Where the accident happened (at the underpass where the Lewes Road/A270 merges with the A27) the cycle lane runs alongside the busy A270 and is shared by cyclists going on both directions and pedestrians. Apparently, Joanna was cycling into Brighton, another cyclist was coming the other way, there was a little confusion about their positions, their shoulders touched and Joanna was clipped by a delivery van traveling along the road.

It was a tragic accident, the coronor recorded.

But, as Tony Green suggests, a barrier such as a fence might have prevented this accident.

I agree with Mr Green, and further, I point out that this is not an isolated case. When you consider the statistics, with urban A roads claiming 17 times more casualties among cyclists than among car drivers, per mile travelled, we should be doing do more to protect cyclists from motor vehicles.

Yes, this means segregated facilities that separate cyclists (and pedestrians) from motor transport.

Where space is limited, we may have to used mixed pedestrian-cycle lanes. Mixed use is not ideal - pedestrians and cyclists mixed up does cause confusion and sometimes accidents, but it rarely leads to serious injuries. We would prefer separate lanes for each direction of cycle travel and for pedestrians, but where this is not possible, we must separate this mixed use pedestrian-cycle lane from motorised traffic with a sturdy barrier to prevent cyclists accidentally straying onto the path of rushing cars.

The government is encouraging people to cycle to school and work. If this is the case they should provide safer cycling facilities along designated cycle routes, separating vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians from motor cars so that accidents like this one are less likely to occur.

A trust celebrating the life of Joanna Walters can be found at

Bricycles website can be found at:

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