Council ignored danger warnings over deadly Mitcham Road

Ghost bikes are chilling reminders of often avoidable tragedies on our roads. KRISTIAN GREGORY, of the Croydon Cycling Campaign, outlines one of the borough’s most deadly routes, the A236, which is so dangerous that a local school has banned its pupils from using bikes

Ghost Bike NeilTurnerDuring the last decade an attempt was made to create a comprehensive cycling network across greater London. Very limited funds were allocated to this ambitious project and the money was spread thinly across the capital. Implementation was left mostly to local authorities with little or no idea of how to accommodate cycling infrastructure on their roads. The project was abandoned at only 70 per cent complete.

Croydon Council managed to do a spectacularly poor job with the funds it had to spend on cycling. Croydon painted white dashed lines, marking where the road guttering is and painted cycling logos in the gutter. This is what passes for a “cycle lane” in Croydon, and to this day the council website still boasts of the extensive 45-mile network, which it claims “are the primary measure to provide cyclists with safer, quicker journeys”.

In January, one local cyclist and road safety advocate wrote to the council about what he perceived to be one of the most dangerous cycle lanes in Croydon, on Mitcham Road, the A236. This cycle lane here runs along the side of parked cars, in what is known as the “door zone”.

The door zone on Mitcham Road: deadly for cyclists

The “Door Zone” on Mitcham Road: deadly for cyclists

This is the area of the road in which a cyclist would be killed or seriously injured if a car occupant was to open the passenger door at the moment they were cycling by. Cyclists are strongly advised never to cycle in this area, yet that is precisely where Croydon Council put its cycle lane.

To add to the danger, traffic islands along the road create pinch points. At these points, motorised traffic often merges with the cycle lane, increasing the risk of a collision if a cyclist is using the lane at the time. The road safety advocate “CycleGaz”, who brought the dangers of the Mitcham Road cycle lane to Croydon Council’s attention, has a YouTube channel of rider-view videos which has 10,000 subscribers. He illustrates the danger which confronts cyclists on a daily basis on the A236 with his video.

Croydon Council’s response to his letter was predictable, suggesting that by painting the road differently it would fix the problem. Ultimately, they didn’t even do that.

In June, another local cyclist, “Mitul” also wrote to highlight the danger on Mitcham Road. Mitul received no response. There may have been other warnings to the council from other cyclists. Nothing changed.

On July 10 this year, Neil Turner was hit by a car, thrown 30-foot from his bicycle and died on the road. This was a predictable and preventable death that has taken Neil from his fiancé, his five-month-old son and loving family.

A ghost bike was placed at the site in memory of Neil and as a reminder to all of the dangerous conditions that have long gone ignored on Mitcham Road. Neil’s family gathered with local cyclists to put the bike in place and observe a minute silence. Local ward councillors were asked to attend, relevant members of Croydon Council’s cabinet and the Greater London Assembly member were also invited.

Nobody who has any responsibility for road safety could find the time.

Nearly six months after the death of Neil Turner, the conditions on Mitcham Road are unchanged. This road runs through a residential area with a school, but someone has designated it an A road. As an A road, the safety of residents and schoolchildren is considered secondary to the importance of maintaining high traffic throughput.

In the gutter: that's where Croydon Council seems to think that cyclists belong

In the gutter: that’s where Croydon Council seems to think that cyclists belong

The ghost bike is no longer in place. This solemn memorial, a reminder of the unnecessary loss of life, was taken away at some point this month after the school asked the police to remove it. The family was never consulted.

It had been removed so suddenly and without consultation it was believed to have been stolen. Contact details were left on the bike so there would be an opportunity to collect it and the locks, but these were ignored. The locks were cut and the bike taken.

Archbishop Lanfranc School had requested the police remove it as they felt that it might distract drivers and thus posed a danger to pupils on their way to school. The police agreed. It is unclear how a group of people could conclude that the key to making Mitcham Road safer was to remove the only reminder of how dangerous it is there.

The school forbids its pupils from riding bicycles to school, on the grounds of health and safety. They know the road is dangerous, potentially deadly.

The Croydon Cycling Campaign contacted the school to request help in calling for speed restrictions to improve the safety of pupils on Mitcham Road. The response was that, “Speed restrictions on Mitcham Road at our opening and closing times would make little difference as the traffic is frequently stationary”.

The more plausible explanation is that people don’t like to be reminded of death. That would be perfectly understandable for people who start and end every working day passing that reminder. Perhaps the ghost bike needed to be removed for this reason, but it should not have gone without the road’s danger being removed with it.

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9 Responses to Council ignored danger warnings over deadly Mitcham Road

  1. I have not been a cyclist for many years – but I wholeheartedly defend the rights of those who are.

    I have seen the half-hearted splashing of paint around the roads which seems to be Croydon Council’s response to an entirely reasonable request for safer passage.

    We found clever ways to create separate pathways for the tram and benefit hugely as a result. We could surely find equally clever ways to separate cyclists from the rest of the traffic.

    Councillors should spend more time seeking proper solutions to this problem and less time on their childish party-political squabbles or on calculating their expenses.

    How many more cyclists must die or be seriously injured before Croydon Council does something?

  2. cyclegaz says:

    It’s a shame that Croydon Council have done nothing about this road. But really what else could we expect from an apparent cycling borough that cares little for anything that doesn’t have an engine?

    To my knowledge it’s the only A road in Croydon that allows residential parking along most of it on both sides. Add on top that there is a school on it. It’s quite disconcerting when the vulnerable road users complain and nothing changes. Even when there was a tragic death of a cyclist, concerns were still ignored.

    It’s not like that was the first incident on that road. A year before I broke my clavicle on Mitcham Road after a car pulled out in front of me whilst I was doing nearly 30mph.

    I’ve lost any hope of getting anything changed when approaching councils or governing bodies. It was the same story with TfL and the cycle superhighways. I made some noise about those when they where first introduced and even had the project manager from TfL ask me to comment on them directly to him.

    Again all concerns where ignored and people lost their lives. We shouldn’t live in a world where we put traffic movement over peoples lives.

  3. mraemiller says:

    “A year before I broke my clavicle on Mitcham Road after a car pulled out in front of me whilst I was doing nearly 30mph.”

    Surely Twenty is Plenty?

    • Twenty is a more appropriate speed limit for this section of the road, but the speed limit is currently thirty and has been for some time. As you yourself pointed out in previous discussions, travelling below the speed limit can result in dangerous overtakes, therefore it often feels that for your own safety (if not others) it is best to travel at the limit. Expecting some road users to keep to a 20 limit while others are permitted to travel up to 30 is not safe. The safest approach is for a 20mph limit that applies to all users.

  4. Pingback: Council ignored danger warnings over deadly Mitcham Road

  5. mraemiller says:

    “It is unclear how a group of people could conclude that the key to making Mitcham Road safer was to remove the only reminder of how dangerous it is there..”

    Well, you cant have everyone errecting their own random memorials all over the road and leaving them there forever. We soon wouldn’t be able to move for pieces of street political propaganda. It may be well intentioned but it’s still basically a form of political flyposting. Cutting the locks seems a bit mean though…

  6. Arfur Towcrate says:

    Don’t you ever shut up?

  7. mitsky says:

    To: ‘’
    Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2012 12:30:03 +0100
    Subject: RE: URGENT Please – FW: cycle “lanes”

    Mr Shah

    Many thanks for your email and apologies for the lateness of the reply.

    In response to your question, this is a London Cycle Network Cycle Lane and as the name suggests is part of the London cycle network that exists all over London. You will see signs denoting this all over London and Croydon. The routes were originally designed to allow for cyclists to be given road space so the activity of cycling would be encouraged to promote sustainable travel.

    This type of lane is no different to cycle lanes provided anywhere else in London. The initial design was at the time of implementation safety audited and we do hold a copy of this in the office.

    However considering cycling is more popular and the numbers of cyclists have increased and while these designs at the time may have been considered suitable and safe in the year of implementation, 2006. It is thought now appropriate to reconsider or review this scheme.

    Following consultation with our local Cycle groups and following the extremely unfortunate fatality of the 10th July we will be asking the designers to reconsider what is currently in place.

    Many thanks

    Carole Crankshaw
    Biking Borough Program Manager
    L B Croydon
    Strategic Transport
    Taberner House
    Park Lane
    CR9 3JS
    its quicker by bike!

    From: Contact The Council
    Sent: 24 August 2012 10:30
    To: Crankshaw,Carole
    Subject: URGENT Please – FW: cycle “lanes”
    Importance: High

    For your urgent attention please.
    Please reply directly to the customer and copy in contact the council mailbox.
    If you are unable to respond within the timescale, please advise customer (& CTC) & please keep customer informed of progress.

    Thank you
    Mr D Grazier
    Contact the council
    Resource & customer services department

    From: Contact The Council
    Sent: 24 August 2012 10:29
    To: ‘’
    Cc: Perry, Jason
    Subject: RE: cycle “lanes”

    Dear Mr Shah,

    Thank you for your e-mail. I am very sorry that you have not received a response to your enquiry further to previous e-mails. I understand this was passed to the Biking Officer for the borough to provide a response to you. I will follow up with them for an urgent response.

    We apologise for the delay and thank you for your patience.

    Mr D Grazier
    Contact the council
    Resource & customer services department

    From: Mitul aka Mitsky []
    Sent: 24 August 2012 05:38
    To: Perry, Jason
    Cc: Contact The Council
    Subject: FW: cycle “lanes”

    Hi Jason
    I heard you are a supporter of cyclists so thought this (below) might interest you.
    I’ve still yet to recieve a response.

    Mitul “Mitsky” Shah

    Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2012 09:52:29 +0100
    Subject: RE: cycle “lanes”

    Dear Mr Shah,

    Thank you for your e-mail. I am sorry that you have not received a response from the Road Safety team. I will follow up with the department for a response to be made to you by the end of the week.

    Mr D Grazier
    Contact the council
    Resource & customer services department

    From: Mitul aka Mitsky []
    Sent: 04 August 2012 14:51
    To: Contact The Council
    Subject: RE: cycle “lanes”

    I did not receive any response to this.
    And now we have a fatality on this road:

    Mitul “Mitsky” Shah

    Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2012 13:15:14 +0100
    Subject: RE: cycle “lanes”

    Dear Mr Shah,

    Thank you for your email. I have passed your enquiry to the road safety team. They will look into your enquiry as quickly as possible and aim to reply in no longer than 10 working days.

    Ms S Mavadia
    Contact the council
    Resource & customer services department

    From: Mitul aka Mitsky []
    Sent: 04 June 2012 21:48
    To: Contact The Council
    Subject: cycle “lanes”

    I’d like to ask who thought it would be a good idea to paint new green cycle “lanes” down Mitcham Road (and, I assume, elsewhere).
    These lanes have been set next to designated parking for cars.
    Any half-decent cyclist should know cycling next to park cars is dangerous in case a door opens which could lead to a serious accident.

    To give an example of how dangerous it is please read:
    And view this videos:

    The safest place to cycle when next to parked cars is the minimum distance of these cycle lanes (ie OUTSIDE them).
    The easiest way to think about this is how far out an open car door is. And cycle that distance away from the parked car.

    Mitul “Mitsky” Shah

    • mitsky says:

      Sorry about the long post.
      Not really sure how to make it more concise.
      Lets just say the time to get a response is disappointing and the overall lack of any worthwhile action is worrying to say the least.
      How long until we get another death due to poor road planning?

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