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Mayor Johnson Assailed in London Assembly on Cycling Deaths

London Assembly members attacked Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson over his policies to encourage cycling, after six bike-riders died on the U.K. capital’s streets in less than two weeks.

In the mayor’s regular question-and-answer session at City Hall today, Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon accused Johnson of not doing enough to speed up measures to introduce segregated cycle lanes. Green Assembly member Jenny Jones said Johnson was “blaming the victims” for saying some cyclists were riding dangerously, such as by wearing headphones.

“Cycling is not getting safer in London,” Jones said. “I think you should apologize to the families of the victims and to the people who have been seriously injured on the roads because of your flawed and quite dangerous policies.”

The death of a cyclist in a collision with a truck in Walworth, southeast London, two days ago brought the number of bike-riders who’ve lost their lives on the capital’s roads this year to 14, the same as in the whole of 2012. The five previous deaths in recent weeks also involved trucks and buses.

“Your chances of dying on a cycle journey in London are lower now than they were five years ago,” Johnson said, appealing for support from his own Tory group in the assembly. “What we can’t do is provide engineering of every inch of road surface in such a way as to guard against behavior that is irrational and unexpected.”

Cycle Superhighways

Johnson, who is frequently pictured riding a bike, has made increasing cycle use one of his flagship policies. He’s set up a bike rental program sponsored by Barclays Plc and inaugurated a network of wider bike lanes known as cycle superhighways.

The capital’s Metropolitan Police force announced this week it is putting hundreds of extra officers on to the streets to improve road safety, checking for dangerous and badly driven trucks as well as stopping cyclists who are behaving dangerously.

“I would not be against a prohibition or ban on cyclists wearing headphones,” Johnson said on the BBC’s London radio station yesterday. “Call me illiberal but it makes me absolutely terrified to see them bowling along unable to hear the traffic.”

The Assembly’s Transport Committee asked Londoners today to submit their views on cycling in the capital for a survey before a meeting on Dec. 10 with Johnson’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan.

“If the mayor is serious about meeting his target of a 40 percent reduction in the number of road users killed or seriously injured by 2020, he must listen to cyclists’ concerns about their safety on our roads,” the panel’s chairwoman, Val Shawcross from the Labour Party, said in an e-mailed statement.

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