Across the pond: succession of fatalities leads to heated debate, “radical” solutions

After a succession of cycling fatalities in the city of London – six deaths in two weeks, bicyclists are demanding safer roads while others blame cyclists for “dicing with death” by riding without helmet, without lights and/or with headphones.

The discussion across the pond is getting heated, but London Mayor Boris Johnson, meanwhile,  insists that cycling safety has improved in the last few years. The mayor stated that highways are under “constant review” and freight transportation may be banned during rush hour.  

Sam Judah from BBC News Magazine takes it a step further, compiling eight of the most “radical solutions” that have been suggested to protect bicyclists.

1. Bicycle licenses and even number plates. This would make it possible to track and identify bicyclists on camera, supposedly encouraging them to ride more safely. Critics claim that not only would it deter people from cycling, it would be ineffective in reducing fatalities, as studies show that only 2-3% of collisions are caused by bicyclists who broke the law.

2. Ban vehicles from city centers.   Mayor Johnson is already looking into a possible law that would ban freight traffic during rush hour, but many active transportation advocacy groups would love to see a downtown center closed to motorized vehicles.

3. Allow cyclists to jump red lights. The city of Paris has begun a trial in which bicyclists would be allowed to carry straight on, or turn right at a small number of traffic lights in the city - even if they were red. The scheme extended what was already common practice in much of the Netherlands and Belgium, where cyclists can turn right (it would be left in the UK) at a red light as standard. The Parisian authorities say the trial has been a success.

4. Allowing bicyclists on sidewalks. While bicyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks in many US cities, this isn’t the case in the UK. Bicyclists on sidewalks of course, would have to travel at slower speeds.

5. Ban headphones. This seems to be a touchy subject no matter where you go. Those in favor of the argument, reason that cycling with any of one's senses wilfully impaired is inherently more dangerous. In turn, critics are quick to point out that none of the cyclists killed in the recent collisions were wearing headphones.

6. Body armor. As the debate surrounding helmets and helmet continues world-wide, a few Canadian doctors are suggesting that bicyclists wear body armor. A study that looked at bicycle crash-related injuries showed common injuries occurred on the chest and abdomen. The doctors argue that wearing a chest pad could reduce or prevent these injuries.

7. Elevated bike routes Elevated bike routes, like the Hovenring in The Netherlands, separated bicyclists from cars on a whole other level (pun intended). This kind of infrastructure however is very costly and still very experimental.

8. The most radical idea: getting rid of traffic lights and road signs altogether Advocates of the notion of "shared space" suggest that traffic lights, road markings, railings and pavements all conspire to dull motorists' sense of responsibility. By replacing them all with a simple flat open space, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists would all be more aware of one another, and use the space with more respect.

Which ideas do you think would work (in London or Seattle)? Or do you have an even better/more radical idea? Comment below.