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Old Street safety plea by cyclists facing life with one leg

Human chain protesters greet traffic ban pledge, but condemn ‘appalling’ delays

22 March, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Cyclists Sarah Doone and Victoria Lebrec each lost a leg in Old Street crashes

TWO women who have each lost a leg in horrific collisions in Old Street joined a protest calling for the stretch to be made safer for cyclists on Tuesday.

Dozens of cyclists, backed by campaign groups Active Travel Now and Cycle Islington, formed a human chain along the road, protecting cyclists from passing cars and lorries.

They were joined by Sarah Doone and Victoria Lebrec, who each lost a limb while cycling on the road. Ms Doone was crushed by a lorry at Old Street roundabout in July last year while Ms Lebrec’s collision took place at the turning with St John Street in 2014.

The protest happened just hours after Islington transport chief Councillor Claudia Webbe released a “statement of intent” in which she hopes to see Clerkenwell Road and Old Street closed to through traffic by December 2021. The public consultation is due to start in September this year.

But campaigners say the changes should have been made earlier.

Dr Tabitha Tanqueray, from Cycle Islington, said: “We feel conflicted about the statement put out yesterday by Claudia Webbe and Islington Council. She describes a groundbreaking, ambitious vision of transforming Clerkenwell Road into a low-trafficked street, prioritising walking, cycling and buses.

“We are fully behind this vision. However, the timescale and the constant delays from the council are appalling. In 2014, the money and brief were accepted by the council.”

Dr Tanqueray, a cycling enthusiast and consultant at Homerton Hospital, pointed out that Cllr Webbe was quoted in the Tribune two years ago as saying she hoped work on the Old Street to Clerkenwell stretch would be completed by the time the Old Street gyratory was removed.

Work on transforming the roundabout started on Wednesday, with the main work scheduled to start in May.

Dr Tabitha Tanqueray

Dr Tanqueray said: “What we need now is delivery. We hope that councillors, residents and businesses will support her in achieving her aim of eliminating deaths and serious injures on this road. Delays on this project are proving fatal.”

Doctors from London’s Air Ambulance performed life-saving surgery on Ms Lebrec after she was crushed by a skip lorry while cycling in Old Street five years ago.

She now works for charity Road Peace helping crash victims. She told the Tribune this week that she was “pleased but frustrated” with the new timeline for changes.

“I just hope there is no serious collision or fatality before the work takes place,” she said. “We are quite likely to [have one], just looking at how many there have been in the past four years or so.”

She said that it wasn’t “all down to the council or Transport for London” to make roads safer for cyclists, adding: “It’s not an easy fix. It takes lots of people working together.”

There were 193 collisions – involving cars, pedestrians and cyclists – in Old Street and Clerkenwell Road in the five years leading up to February 2018.

The council’s ann­ouncement of a ban on through traffic on the roads ignited fierce debate on the Tribune Twitter page, with users of the social media site asking how shops would get deliveries and whether traffic would just move to side streets­. Others praised the plan because it would cut pollution.

Cllr Webbe said that the council was “fully committed to encouraging more people to walk and cycle, and to do so in a safe environment”.

She said: “This ambitious plan will see the corridor closed to through traffic, with priority given to walking, cycling and public transport, while avoiding traffic being diverted to local streets.

“For too long these roads have seen collisions and injuries, some of them extremely serious ones. This is unacceptable and the bold plans I am announcing will seek to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, deaths and serious injuries on these roads.

“I look forward to bringing forward proposals for consultation this year, with work starting on the transformation of these roads in 2021.”

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