I don’t want someone I love to be killed whilst cycling: we need safe junctions now

This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 153.

Robin Heydon
Robin Heydon

I cycled to the Addenbrooke’s roundabout the other day. I knew it was going to be a difficult moment, but the emotion that hit me as I approached was completely unexpected. The last time I felt that way was at my brother’s funeral. I stopped at the junction where a roadside memorial had been placed, wiped the tears away from my eyes, and tried not to get overwhelmed. Anna Garratt-Quinton, a 22-year old physiotherapist, was killed at this roundabout on 7 October on her way to work at the hospital.

Ghost bike in memory of Anna Garratt-QuintonGhost bikes, painted all in white, are memorials for those people who have tragically lost their lives cycling on the road: the movement started in America.

In the UK there have been ghost bikes in Bath, Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and York, amongst other places. They also remind road users that this is a dangerous place and that they should look out for others, and not let needless death happen again.

When there is a death on the railways, detailed investigations are undertaken to work out how to prevent such an outcome again. Blame is not the priority, improvement is. The same happens in the aviation industry. So why can’t we do the same on our roads? How can we improve procedures or designs to reduce the risk of such a thing happening again? Can we improve driver, and cyclist, training? Can we improve enforcement of traffic laws? Can we build safer junctions that design out conflicts between road users?

Did you know that in the UK, 41% of cycling fatalities and 68% of serious injuries are at junctions? One quarter of all trauma admissions to A&E departments are the result of a road traffic collisions, mostly car users, but also people cycling and walking. This places a huge burden on our NHS and on the staff working there. Why do we just accept this? Other places have made roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and children: why not places in Cambridgeshire?

Camcycle has been arguing for years that we have to make the junctions safer. Improving Milton Road and ignoring Mitcham’s Corner is wrong. Improving Huntingdon Road but ignoring the Girton Corner is wrong. Improving Trumpington Road and ignoring the double roundabouts at the end is wrong. Improving Hills Road and ignoring the Addenbrooke’s roundabout: wrong again. We need safe junctions, and we need them now.

After a minute of silence, I started looking at the junction and tried to work out how to make it safer. I don’t know if they are the best ideas, but any ideas are better than doing nothing. Personally, I’m tired of passively waiting for the highway gods to make the junctions safer. I don’t want the police to turn up at my door and tell me that somebody I love has been killed whilst cycling. Our Safe Junctions campaign calls for rapid action on dangerous junctions in the whole region. We have a petition to collect the names of all the people who want to demand safer junctions, regardless of whether you cycle, or walk, use a mobility scooter, or indeed drive, to get around. Perhaps you always drive, but then when you park your car and walk towards the shop, you become a pedestrian. Perhaps you need to cross the road, at a junction, to get to that shop? We want to know those places that you’d like to see made safer so that we can demand that they are fixed first. Sign now at camcycle.org.uk/safejunctions and we’ll present this to decision-makers.

Meanwhile, hold Anna’s family in your thoughts, along with those of Michael, Steve, Celia, Elizabeth, John, Anthony, Stewart and many others taken too soon whilst cycling on our roads.

Robin Heydon is Chair of Camcycle. This article was first published on 25 October, 2021, in the Cambridge News, where you can read his column each week.

Since this article was written, two more cyclists and a pedestrian have been killed and others have suffered serious injuries. We offer our deepest sympathy to the families of Chris Mardlin from Huntingdon, Kathleen Pitts of Cambridge and the gentleman killed in Royston on 9 November, and to those recovering from other collisions.