Scores of cyclists staged a ‘die-in’ outside Woolwich Town Hall on Thursday evening after three riders were killed by motor vehicles in south-east London in less than a month.
Campaigners demanded London mayor Sadiq Khan revive plans for a protected cycle superhighway between London Bridge and Woolwich at the protest, following two deaths on the A206 in Greenwich, which would have been covered by plans for Cycle Superhighway 4 – cut short by Khan to run between Tower Bridge and Deptford Creek Bridge.
Oliver Speke, aged 46, was killed after he was struck by a lorry on 9 May on Romney Road, Greenwich; while Edgaras Cepura, 37, was killed in a collision with an HGV a mile east at Woolwich Road roundabout on 18 May.
Protesters also remembered the man killed at Childers Street, Deptford, on 3 June after his bicycle was hit by a Mercedes whose driver fled the scene.
Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe, who watched most of the protest from outside council offices across the road, is to take Khan’s new deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander as well as walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman on a site visit to see the Woolwich Road roundabout in an attempt to seek a resolution to safety issues at the junction, where the A206 trunk road meets the Blackwall Tunnel approach.
Stop Killing Cyclists co-founder Donnachadh McCarthy told the protest that both Greenwich Council and Transport for London needed “a rocket up their behinds”.
“Three weeks and three deaths in south-east London, but we’ve had 30 years of failures by the councils of south-east London,” he said, accusing councils of being “yes but boroughs” and trying to water down schemes to make roads safe for cyclists.
“Cycle Superhighway 4 was announced in 2013, but not a metre’s been built and two thirds of it has been dropped,” McCarthy said.
“That’s the record of Greenwich Council in their actions with TfL. It’s not good enough, and we’re here today to say to the councillors in Greenwich: pull your fingers out, go and speak to Will Norman, the money’s there, the plans are there, and re-announce that TfL will put CS4 all the way from London Bridge to Woolwich town centre. That’s our demand.”
‘Competent cyclists have died’
A friend of Edgaras Cepura told the protest: “The truth is, it’s not just people who aren’t aware how to cycle around vehicles or jump red lights, it’s competent people like my best friend Edgaras that have been killed by HGVs because of an inability for us to change, an inabilty for us to adapt our roads and adapt our vehicles to co-exist with innocent people who want to cycle to work.”
Lewisham Cyclists co-ordinator Jane Davis spoke about the death in Deptford but referred back to an earlier hit-and-run death, that of 17-year-old Olatunji “TJ” Johnson Adeyanju in 2012 on Deptford Church Street, just metres from the Lewisham-Greenwich borough boundary.
“This recent fatality has brought all that flooding back. His uncle said he just wanted things to be made better for cyclists so it didn’t happen again in Deptford.
“Then, six years later, this is what we’ve got. Obviously, we don’t know what happened [on Sunday] but what it’s brought home to me is that it just takes too long to get things done.”
Greenwich borough resident Vicky Falconer described her cycle journey along the A206 – questioning how construction works in Charlton could be allowed to compromise cycle safety, and describing the Woolwich Road roundabout as “a relic of urban planning from the last century”.
A media statement issued by Greenwich Council referred to the Woolwich Road roundabout as being “part of the planned Cycle Superhighway 4 (CS4) route from Tower Bridge to Woolwich”, although the scheme was announced last year as stopping just east of Deptford Creek Bridge. It said the council “fully backs the superhighway”.
Greenwich Council said that Danny Thorpe would be discussing with Alexander and Norman “what measures could be implemented in advance of CS4 to improve the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users at the roundabout and along the busy Woolwich Road”.
Cllr Thorpe said: “The superhighway is the best way forward in making this busy route better and safer for cyclists and essential road users, but we need to identify measures we can implement ahead of CS4 that give greater protection to cyclists. We are actively encouraging our residents to take up cycling and an essential part of that is making the roads safer for bicycle users.”
Will Norman said in the statement issued by the council: “Reducing road danger is a top priority for the Mayor and TfL, which is why we’re investing record amounts in building new infrastructure to make cycling safer across London.
“As outlined in our Strategic Cycle Network we have ambitions to make the route between Greenwich and Woolwich Road [sic] safer for cyclists, and I’m looking forward to meeting with the council leader soon to discuss how we can make this a reality. Both the Mayor’s office and Royal Greenwich Council [sic] share an ambition to make cycling a safer and easier option for residents all across the borough.”
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