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Cyclist deaths: ‘radical’ pledge to close roads

Talks on pedestrianising streets in the south of the borough after a series of collisions in recent months

05 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Cyclist Maria Bitner-Glindzicz died last month after she collided with a taxi in St John Street

MOVES to pedestrianise streets in the south of the borough in a bid to make life safer for cyclists are being discussed at the Town Hall following the death of a geneticist in Clerkenwell.

Environment chief Councillor Claudia Webbe said “a far more radical” safety strategy was needed.

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz died last month after she collided with a taxi in St John Street. There have been a series of collisions involving cyclists nearby in recent months.

On July 25, Sarah Doone, 38, lost her leg when she was in collision with a cement truck at Old Street roundabout. Designer Soren Aarlev, 38, died after colliding with a car in Goswell Road on July 6.

Cllr Webbe said: “In discussion with my fellow ward councillors we feel it is necessary to close roads and further pedestrianise key locations. We believe there are opportunities to do so in places such as where St John Street meets Smithfield, which is also in close proximity to the new Farringdon Crossrail Station entrance.”

She added: “It would be desirable, in our view, to transform this part of St John Street from a vehicle-dominated area to one better suited to the free flow of people.”

The safety of pedestrians and cyclists on Islington’s roads is a “primary concern”, said Cllr Webbe, adding: “I am determined that we do everything possible to reduce deaths and serious incidents to absolute zero.”

Sarah Doone lost her leg when she was in collision with a cement truck at Old Street roundabout

She wants the changes to be made within the next two years, to coincide with the transformation of Old Street roundabout, due to be completed by autumn 2020.

“Obviously, to enable such transformations to happen we will need the support of the City of London, TfL and the Mayor of London,” she said. “We believe that, like us, they too are committed to more radical change.”

Cycling and walking campaigners have welcomed Cllr Webbe’s plans as has Green London Assembly Member Car­­oline Russell. She warned that Cllr Webbe has a “big job ahead”, but added: “It is encouraging to hear her talking about reducing traffic and filtering streets.

“Prioritising people walking and cycling over people parking and driving vehicles is fundamental to making Healthy Streets, where death and serious injury are designed out. Removing through traffic and parking bays across the borough is long overdue.”

Islington Living Streets coordinator David Harrison said: “St John Street and Cowcross Street are notorious rat-runs used by taxis and other vehicles as a shortcut to the City.

“We strongly support proposals to close the southern end of St John Street to motor traffic. Removing through traffic will improve general pedestrian safety, ensure safe access to Farringdon Station and enable residents, workers and visitors to enjoy this historic street.”

He added: “There is also the opportunity to create an outstanding public space near the junction of St John Street and St John’s Lane.

Christopher Kenyon, from campaigning group Cycle Islington, said: “Every councillor needs to ask themselves how they can support Cllr Webbe’s work. Is parking on every street really more important than having a cycle route?”

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