The Holborn Gyratory – cyclist safety versus cost | Bolt Burdon Kemp The Holborn Gyratory – cyclist safety versus cost | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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The Holborn Gyratory – cyclist safety versus cost

In March 2019 it was announced that one of London’s most dangerous junctions for cyclists, the Holborn Gyratory was to receive a £12.6 million makeover to make it safer for vulnerable road users, as one of a number of locations throughout the capital that will share £53 million under the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TFL) were to provide £9.5 million to redevelop the Holborn gyratory, with the balance made up by the London Borough of Camden.

At that time six cyclists and four pedestrians had lost their lives in the area in the preceding decade, including a physician to the Queen, which led to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) holding a vigil there to call for the junction to be made safe following his death in August 2018.

Holborn gyratory is one of London’s most intimidating junctions with high numbers of collisions, inadequate footway space and poor cycling facilities. The project intended to remove the gyratory and introduce protected cycle lanes along High Holborn and Theobalds Road. Sections of New Oxford Street and Great Russell Street will be closed to motor vehicles and a section of Bloomsbury Way will become bus and bike only. The setting for the British Museum was to be improved by pedestrianising Great Russell Street and the pedestrian environment will be improved around Holborn station. A freight reduction scheme will be delivered in partnership with the local Business Improvement District.

Sadly, in February 2022 a woman in her late 30s, was killed in a collision with an HGV close to Holborn station at around 10 am. This was despite changes made the preceding year in response to a petition organised by the LCC following the tragic death of a paediatric doctor at the junction of Theobald’s Road and Southampton Row, a junction which has been known for years to be lethally dangerous for cycling and walking.

TFL and Camden Council had installed a new temporary scheme to reduce danger to cyclists, which was delivered over the first weekend of October 2021. This demonstrated that changes can be made speedily when needed. However, once again, this time in February 2022, saw the 8th cyclist to be killed in the notorious Holborn “gyratory”, leading to campaigners demanding “rapid and bold” cycle safety changes to be introduced. This accident occurred just a few metres from the spot where a cyclist died in a lorry collision in 2013.

Campaigners in August 2021 had slammed transport chiefs for “endless delays and excuses” in failing to make safe the roads around Holborn after paediatric doctor Dr Marta Krawiec was killed riding her bike at the Southampton Row and Theobald’s Road junction. The council and TFL came together to make changes to the road layouts, including more cycle boxes and allowing cyclists to go straight ahead instead of turning left.

But Simon Munk from the LCC and several others, have repeatedly said these safety improvements have not gone far enough. Yet again, the Holborn system of one ways and junctions has resulted in a fatal collision – the eighth since 2008. Rapid and bold change at this and all junctions at Holborn must happen now.

Mr Munk said “…we challenge all London boroughs and the Mayor to not just wait for the next fatality at a junction known to be lethally dangerous for decades. Change must not come at this continuing cost.”

In October, Mr Munk had also said: “The temporary measures go nowhere near fixing the junction completely, nor is there any timetable for a more complete scheme, let alone fixing all the other lethal junctions in the Holborn’s one-way system where seven cyclists have been killed since 2008.”

In January 2022, Camden Council launched work to make its road layout changes at the junction of Southampton Row and Theobalds Road permanent.

It had in the past said it planned to rip out the gyratory system around Holborn. But it is now saying that the cash crisis at TFL, exacerbated by a revenue collapse during Covid, was making long term planning impossible.

Will Norman, the Mayor’s cycling champion, said: “I’m devastated to hear about the tragic death of the person cycling in Holborn this morning after a collision with an HGV. Making London’s roads safer is our top priority.

We’re working closely with Camden to make safety improvements to the junction further north on Holborn gyratory, where Dr Krawiec was killed. We’ve got a permanent plan for improvements to the whole area, but uncertainty around TFL’s funding due to COVID forced us to pause.

We’ll work with Camden to investigate what short-term measures can be brought forward in the wake of this awful incident. However, without proper long-term for transport in London, it is very hard to plan and deliver major overhauls at complex junctions like this.”

The Holborn one-way system itself has several other untreated and lethal junctions within 200m of this one. The route from Old Street sees more dangerous and lethal junctions, known for years to be an issue, untouched. Across London the LCC has reported there are far too many dangerous junctions that need to be made safe for cyclists, but year after year they are ignored.

Whilst Covid has undoubtedly had an impact on future spend, the cost of lives cannot be ignored. We are all being encouraged to turn to the bike for a healthier, emission free environment but the truth is London will remain congested with cars, lorries and buses. The promised changes are absolutely essential to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

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