Cycle safety: Transport boss ‘completely committed’ to making St John Street safer after fatal crash

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz. Picture: Norrie Disease Foundation

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz. Picture: Norrie Disease Foundation - Credit: Archant

Islington Council could close parts of St John Street to traffic after a cyclist was knocked down and killed there last week, the Gazette understands.

Prof Maria Bitner-Glindzicz, a geneticist at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, was involved in the crash on September 19. She died the following evening.

She was the latest in a tragic list of cyclists killed or seriously injured in the borough in recent years, prompting fresh calls for Islington Council to improve road safety.

London Assembly Green Party transport spokesperson Caroline Russell, who is also Islington’s sole opposition councillor, told the Gazette: “It’s absolutely devastating that Prof Maria Bitner-Glindzicz died in St John Street – this shouldn’t be happening.

“Cllr Claudia Webbe says she is committed to healthy streets but that means taking action to prioritise cyclists over traffic.

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“We have to take action to reduce the danger to people cycling in Islington’s streets.”

Cllr Webbe told us she would now push for “significant changes” to St John Street between Smithfield and Clerkenwell Road – as part of a safe cycle route being created from the latter to Old Street – to be “sped up”.

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“It is my belief that a substantial reduction in through traffic along this route is necessary,” she said,

Cycling campaigner and bike seller Andrea Casalotti, 57, said: “It’s a very dangerous street and Islington Council has refused to do the work needed to make it less risky.

“But the council’s main preoccupation is to allow cars to drive through St John Street, rather than making it a pleasant area for people living and working there.”

“Money has always been available from TfL to make Clerkenwell Road and the surrounding area safer for cycling.”

Andrea, who used to lived off St John Street, jointly runs social enterprise Cargobike Life. It promotes the use of cargo bikes – larger, heavy duty freight bicycles – instead of motor vehicles to transport goods.

“Islington has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds without doing anything for cycle safety,” he said. “I think it’s very insulting to the victims when Cllr Webbe said we need more money – the money is already there, or at least it was.”

The council’s transport boss said she was “completely committed to making Islington a safer place for cyclists” and “rebalancing roads in favour of pedestrians and cyclists”, citing the gyratory work at Old Street and Highbury Corner, and the extension to cycle superhighway 6 at Farringdon, as examples. All are joint projects with the mayor of London or TfL.

Calling Prof Bitner-Glindzicz’s death a “tragedy”, she added: “The safety of pedestrians and cyclists on our borough roads is of primary concern and it is important that adequate space is created to reduce critical incidents and deaths to zero.”

Prof Bitner-Glindzicz was the second cyclist to be fatally injured on Islington’s streets this year. Soren Aarlev, of Haggerston, died in hospital days after being hit by a car in Goswell Road in July.

Meanwhile, journalist Sarah Doone had a leg amputated after being hit by a cement truck at Old Street Roundabout in August.

In 2015, Victoria Lebrec was smashed from her bike on the junction of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street.

The following year cyclist Julie Dinsdale was hit by a truck on the corner of Old Street and Central Street. Both women lost a leg.

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