Down in the street

This article was published in 2005, in Newsletter 63.

Cycling into town a couple of weeks ago I turned left into the Downing Street cycle contraflow lane from St Andrew’s Street. As I turned a pedestrian stepped off the kerb and knocked into my side. The impact was small but the road surface was wet. I skidded and fell, cutting my face and breaking a bone in my hand. A group of pedestrians picked me up and took me across the road to the Porters’ Lodge of Emmanuel College where the porters gave me first aid and were very helpful indeed.

Downing Street turning
Image as described adjacent

They told me that such accidents are frequent and this set me thinking about what could be done to reduce them in future. Crowds of pedestrians cross the road at this junction when the traffic coming out of Downing Street is halted by red lights. Cyclists turning left from St Andrew’s Street into the contraflow do so when their traffic lights change to green which is at precisely the same time that pedestrians step off the pavement to start to cross the road. Given this situation it is inevitable that impacts will occur from time to time.

What could and should be done to reduce them? I first thought that a left filter for cyclists turning in from St Andrew’s Street might help. This would mean that cyclists would be turning in when pedestrians are blocked by cars coming out of Downing Street. However, I don’t think that this could work. There is insufficient space for a dedicated left-turn cycle lane along St Andrew’s Street and mixing left-turning cyclists with those going straight ahead before a left-filter green light would cause confusion.

What could and should be done immediately is to make the existence of the cycle contraflow more visible to pedestrians at this junction. Red surfacing and a clear on-road cycle logo are needed. Care should be taken that the red surfacing is smooth but not slippery.

I should mention in passing that when I reported the accident at the police station, it was classed as a serious accident because a bone was broken. It really wasn’t serious but it has been inconvenient. My right hand is still rather sore when writing or when using my cycle brakes.

James Woodburn