Tooting, a bustling South London district, has earned the dubious distinction of being home to the most perilous junction for cyclists in the city, according to recent analysis by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC). The junction, situated at Upper Tooting Road and Ansell Road, has seen a staggering 11 serious collisions since 2018, surpassing its nearest contender by more than fivefold.
Transport for London (TfL) recorded these incidents, defining serious collisions as those resulting in hospitalization or life-changing injuries. The alarming frequency of accidents at this junction has prompted concerns from both residents and cycling safety advocates.
A 76-year-old Tooting resident with over seven decades of history in the area attributes the danger to the flawed implementation of the cycle lane. Having served as his road’s neighbourhood watch coordinator for 11 years, the resident claims that the cycle lane’s poorly considered design has led to increased tension between motorists and cyclists.
“I think they’ve put the cycle lane in, they haven’t really listened to the comments, and they’ve made people angry; they’ve made a battle between motorists and cyclists, which is wrong,” the resident remarked.
The issue arises as drivers must traverse the cycle lane to turn off the road. The resident further notes that obstructions on a bend leading up to the junction compromise visibility, resulting in perilous encounters between cyclists and motorists. The A24, one of London’s most congested roads, only exacerbates the challenges faced by road users navigating this treacherous intersection.
An employee at Dailyfresh Foods market overlooking the junction witnesses the aftermath of these collisions regularly. He laments, “There are a lot of cycle accidents here. A lot. Every week about 10 or 15. Someone is injured, broken cycles, and sometimes an ambulance comes – they are very serious accidents.”
The human toll is tragically highlighted by a recent incident where an elderly woman lost her life after being struck by a bus while crossing Upper Tooting Road. A worker in a nearby sweet shop expresses his fear for his son’s safety, who is an avid cyclist, saying, “The accidents make me feel uncomfortable. My son is a cyclist, and whenever he goes outside, I always advise him to be careful and not to be in a rush in case he gets hurt – sure I’m worried, why not.”
However, opinions on cycling safety at the junction vary. A 42-year-old cyclist downplays the concerns, stating, “It’s dangerous in all of London, especially at night.” He perceives the presence of plastic bollards separating the cycle lane from traffic as a safety measure, making the junction somewhat safer than other streets.
Contrary to the alarming incident rate, the London Cycling Campaign’s analysis reveals no recorded fatal cycle collisions at the dangerous Tooting junction. Nonetheless, seven other London junctions have witnessed fatalities, emphasizing the need for immediate action to enhance road safety.
The coordinator for Wandsworth cycling campaign, who visited the junction and interacted with individuals who had experienced accidents or near-misses, identifies the misuse of sideroads as rat runs as a major problem in Tooting. The coordinator advocates for the reintroduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) to mitigate this issue.
LTNs, introduced in 2020 but removed after three weeks due to resident complaints, could play a pivotal role in enhancing safety if reintroduced correctly, according to the coordinator. Reflecting on cycling in London, the coordinator remarks, “I think it’s going to change. It has to change. For climate reasons, for pollution, for people’s health. I am hopeful, but I don’t know how long it is going to take.”
In response to the cycling campaign’s analysis, a TfL spokesperson emphasized their commitment to road safety, stating, “Any death or serious injury on the roads is one too many, and we are determined to end the devastating consequences of road danger by working with London boroughs to make roads safer, including at junctions.”
The spokesperson highlighted TfL’s Safer Junctions program, which has already reduced danger at 44 junctions across London, with ongoing plans for improvements at additional locations. The collaboration with campaigners, councils, and local communities remains central to TfL’s strategy to enhance cycling infrastructure and promote safer roads in the capital.