Philippine De Gerin-Ricard was killed by a heavy goods vehicle as she cycled past Aldgate East tube station on Friday, 5 July. She was riding a Boris bike along CS2, one of Transport for London’s pale blue ‘Cycle Superhighways’, painted onto the roads two years ago to encourage people to get on their bikes. She was the third person to have been killed on CS2 and the second cyclist to have died in east London in the last fortnight. HGVs make up only 4 per cent of traffic, but were involved in more than half of all cyclist deaths in London in 2011. In Paris, where HGVs are banned from the roads during the day, no cyclists were killed in 2011. Sixteen cyclists died in London in the same year.
On 12 July there was a vigil outside City Hall. Later, cyclists congregated at Tower Hill for a protest ride organised by the London Cycling Campaign to call for ‘clear space set aside for use by people on bikes’ on busy roads.
People carried signs: ‘Blue Paint! Not Enough!’; ‘Yet another cycling death’; ‘Safer Lorries Safer Cycling’. A man wore a hi-vis jacket with a picture of a bike and ‘16 dead London 2011’ written on it. An LCC spokesperson asked us to make a lot of noise and wave politely to any angry drivers.
We set off, at walking pace, up Minories from Tower Hill, 1500 or so cyclists tinging our bells in the sunshine, wheeling around a now-placid Aldgate gyratory system and onto Whitechapel High Street. People rode carbon road-bikes bristling with gears; BSA shoppers; cargo bikes with enormous boxes on the front; Boris bikes. One woman towered over the peloton on a penny-farthing. I cycled behind a bike festooned with tiny video cameras capturing a 360 degree video of the road.
‘You’re doing this for safer cycling?’ a cabbie asked me through his window. ‘How come none of you are wearing helmets or hi-viz?’ De Gerin-Ricard was hit at 6.30 p.m. A fluorescent jacket wouldn’t have made her any more visible. A helmet couldn’t have protected her.
At the junction of Commercial Street and Whitechapel High Street we held a minute’s silence. A bunch of flowers was placed on the road. A man in a skull mask stood by with a sign that said: ‘Stop the murder of cyclists.’ Photographers asked him to pose with the flowers but he refused. ‘No, definitely not,’ an LCC steward said.
The police are investigating whether the road design caused or contributed to De Gerin-Ricard’s death, and a few days ago Boris Johnson’s Bike Czar, Andrew Gilligan, said that the junction would be altered according to plans laid out four months ago in the mayor’s ‘Vision for Cycling’.
The LCC wrote to the mayor in February 2011, before work on CS2 had begun: ‘We said the project as planned should be halted, and funds should be spent improving flaws in the existing Cycle Superhighways and that Superhighway 2 should be redesigned a genuinely safe cycle route.’
Yesterday morning another cyclist was killed by an HGV outside Holborn tube station, the third in as many weeks. Another flash ride has been organised for tonight. It leaves Russell Square at 6.30 p.m.