Another tragic death of a cycle rider
By Alison Hill
Last week, a 35-year-old woman riding a bike on Horspath Driftway was killed in a collision with a bin lorry. Following this tragic, calamitous occurrence, the horror and grief her family must be experiencing is unimaginable. The driver of the bin lorry who must also be going through devastating emotions is also in our thoughts.
Not one person should ever die when riding their bike. A death of this terrible kind is no inevitable “accident”. Circumstances that lead to death or serious injury are entirely preventable. Safer streets are vital to give people the confidence to get on bikes, or to walk.
Road users of all kinds occasionally make errors of judgement, so the highway space has to be designed in ways that allow for human failing and reduce or remove the severity of collisions. Cyclox wants a Vision Zero – the elimination of traffic fatalities and serious injuries to anyone, whichever way they choose to travel.
Between 2005 and 2019 there were 21 collisions fatal to cycle-users in the Greater Oxford area. When Claudia Comberti died on her bike three years ago Cyclox and Broken Spoke Bike Cooperative created The Claudia Charter for Safer Cycling in Oxford appealing to Oxfordshire County Council to move faster to create safe streets in Oxford. We have seen no action from our council in light of the Charter.
The County Council claims to put walking and cycling at the heart of their transport policies, but instead motor traffic continues to increase relentlessly on our streets, choking the roads and the air, and creating a hostile environment which discourages people from cycling and walking. They write ambitious words about their commitment, but the 2015 Local Transport Plan promised seven premium cycle routes by 2019. Only one (Access to Headington) has been delivered. On 6th November 2018 the council unanimously passed cycling champion Councillor Bartington’s Active Travel Motion with six affordable actions. It has not delivered any of them. It says much that Councillor Bartington has now resigned her cycling champion role in frustration at the lack of progress.
Then there are the opportunities for rapid change brought about by the pandemic. These appear to have been squandered. The Government urged councils to make ‘meaningful reallocation of road space’ for cycling and walking. Practically nothing has been forthcoming in Oxford. The promises of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are tantalisingly dangled before us, but keep being deferred for fear of push back from those who feel that their rights to drive through residential streets are being challenged. The proposal to introduce temporary bus gates which would have instantly cut traffic volumes in the city has been withdrawn.
As advocates for Active Travel, we are both hugely angry and immensely sad at the snail-like pace of change.
There are so many relatively inexpensive opportunities to make changes that improve our roads and make them safe for cycling and walking. It’s an investment, not a cost, and ultimately will even save our society money long term.
This tragedy should be the prompt for renewed action. Now.