Simon MacMichael September 5 2017
London cyclists were last night joined by road safety campaigners to stage a die-in and vigil at the location on a road known as “death mile” where Ardian Zagani was killed last week following a collision with a van as he rode his bike to work.
The group Stop Killing Cyclists is calling for protected cycle lanes to be put in place on Camden Road, the scene of the fatal crash, and which runs through the boroughs of Camden and Islington.
TfL has been accused in recent years of putting more emphasis on ensuring buses run on time on Camden Road than on the safety of cyclists and pedestrians there.
Mr Zagani, who was aged in his 30s, had been travelling to his work as a college caretaker in Enfield when the collision happened at the junction with Hilldrop Crescent, just within Islington’s boundaries, at around 6am last Tuesday.
He was the sixth cyclist to have been killed on the capital’s streets this year. The female van driver involved was initially arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving but according to the Metropolitan Police was subsequently ‘de-arrested’ and interviewed under caution.
Stop Killing Cyclists is urging Transport for London (TfL) and the London Borough of Islington to make safety improvements including physically separated bike lanes, similar to those on North-South Cycle Superhighway.
Supporters of the group were joined at the vigil, which included a 10-minute die-in, by road safety campaigners including Green Party Assembly Member Caroline Russell, who addressed the gathering, insisting that TfL “prioritises moving vehicles and not people.”
She added: “Maximum pressure must be put on the Mayor of London that killing streets are not acceptable.”
Another speaker was London bus driver Joanne Harris who said she was “amazed” that TfL, which has in the past been accused of prioritising bus timetables over safety on Camden Road, “knew what to do to make this safer but didn’t act.”
In 2011, the London Borough of Camden’s cycling champion Paul Braithwaite labelled Camden Road “death mile” after a number of road traffic collisions involving vulnerable road users, including one in which 20-year-old student Paula Jurek lost her life as she rode to university.
The Islington Tribune reported that he told the council: “We’ve had the most appalling series of accidents on Camden Road, between Sainsbury’s all the way up to Brecknock Road, with fatalities.”
The Liberal Democrat councillor told the council’s Labour cabinet member for the environment, Sue Vincent: “You know and I know that TfL have been pressed to change two of these junctions and have dragged their feet because they don’t want to slow their buses.
“TfL must sort out what is known as death mile,” he added.
Councillor Vincent agreed that TfL and then Mayor Boris Johnson needed to take action on Camden Road.
She said: “In 2004, TfL did a study of Camden Road and all of its junctions and they found several hot-spots that do need attention.
“Since then they’ve done a feasibility study to prevent accidents. It’s too late in coming. I’ve written today asking: Where is it? Where is this report? I will be following it up.”
As we reported at the weekend, three years later TfL met with cycling campaigners to talk about proposals for Camden Road, including protected cycle lanes.
John Chamberlain of Camden Cyclists, the local branch of the London Cycling Campaign, told the Islington Tribune last week: “There was one scheme in 2014 that was supposed to be taken further – but didn’t go anywhere. There was another in 2004.”
According to TfL, safety improvements remain “in the works.”
Referring to Mr Zagani’s death, Mr Chamberlain said: “Of course, we cannot say whether these schemes would have protected against this tragic incident.
“My personal opinion is that what is happening is that there are people with good aspirations within TfL, but there are too many different interests.
“For example, there are big concerns about bus delays,” he continued. “It’s all to do with priorities.
“There are other roads in London like this one where changes have been made.
“Cycling is on the up and up,” he added. “You can’t keep kicking it into the long grass. You have to make compromises.”