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After Three Deaths in Three Weeks, London Must Go Dutch with Its Bike Lanes

A colleague of mine died in a cycling accident on Monday.

A shrine for cyclist Alan Neve, who died on the streets of London on Monday.

On his way to work on Monday morning, a colleague of mine died in a road traffic accident with an HGV.

His name was Alan Neve. He was 54 years old and he died in Holborn while cycling to our office on Berners Street, making him the third cyclist to die in as many weeks on London's roads. Although I didn't know Alan that well, my immediate colleagues did, and his death struck a personal chord, prompting outrage at the London road conditions that allowed his death to happen.

Annoncering

Only last Friday, cyclists turned up in central London in their droves to petition that Boris Johnson provide dedicated space for cyclists. They were spurred on by the death of 20-year-old Philippine De Gerin-Ricard on the 5th of July – the first person to die while riding a Boris bike since the scheme was launched in 2010 – but her tragic accident isn't uncommon; there were 14 cycling-related deaths in London in 2012 alone. Alan's was the fifth this year.

After news of Alan’s death broke via email, I looked up from my screen and scanned my office. Olivia, Barney, Jim, me – we all cycle to work each morning. Any one of us could have been an empty chair on that day, a bunch of flowers strapped to a lamppost.

After his death, Alan’s co-workers invited all of the cyclists across the business to take part in a protest cycle ride to ask for dedicated cycle space on London’s roads. We made our way to Russell Square, where we were met by hundreds of others who had already made the sombre pilgrimage to the protest, which was organised by the London Cycling Campaign. We were overwhelmed when hundreds more turned up, and then when hundreds became thousands. These people didn’t know our colleague, but perhaps it was personal for them, too. It could have been them. It could have been their sons or daughters or sisters or brothers who we cycled for yesterday evening.

We made our way onto the road, mostly pushing our bikes along with one foot, to the place where Alan died. Upon reaching High Holborn, the 2,500-strong mass of cyclists took a minute’s silence, where I stood choking back tears as I watched a dead man's friends and family huddle around his makeshift shrine.

Annoncering

After the minute of silence, the sound of hundreds of bicycle bells filled High Holborn, followed by clapping from the huge crowd. It was the sound of grief and frustration, a desperate call for change.

Alan Neve died because he had nowhere to go and was forced beneath the wheels of a tipper truck. The driver of the tipper truck was arrested by police on suspicion of dangerous driving. The only available option to avoid the busy area of Holborn Circus where Alan died is taking the safer route along the bus lane on Bloomsbury Way. But – as Andy Waterman, editor of Privateer magazine, has already pointed out – two weeks ago the police were fining cyclists for using a route that could have saved his life.

In 2011, 16 people died on bicycles on London's roads. That same year, there were no fatalities on bikes in Paris. Like the Dutch with their dedicated cycle lanes, the Parisians have invested in a cycle network spanning 700km, allowing cyclists better movement on the roads without the risk of being sucked under a lorry or slamming into opening car doors.

A similar scheme is what we were promised by Boris Johnson – a £400 million spend on "cycle super-highways". But all that promise translated to were painted strips on a number of roads – strips that I've personally seen taxis slip into and vehicles parked on. Three deaths in three weeks is testament to the fact that London must go Dutch, providing a proper dedicated space for cyclists on London's roads. Because without them, Alan's death is in no way going to be the last lorry-related cycling fatality in our city.

Follow Shaun on Twitter: @OhShaun

Visit the London Cycling Campaign website here.