Deadly roads claim another cyclist’s life

Campaigners set for vigil amid demands for action to make junctions safe

Friday, 4th March — By Tom Foot

Shatha Ali

Lawyer Shatha Ali, the latest cyclist victim of the Holborn system, who was pronounced dead at the scene of a collision on Tuesday

CYCLISTS will once again be staging a vigil, tonight (Friday), demanding radical changes to a network of dangerous roads after another young woman died while riding a bike through central London.

Lawyer Shatha Ali, in her late 30s, was killed in a collision with a heavy goods vehicle close to the tube station in High Holborn around 10am on Tuesday.

On her way to Maida Vale, she became the eighth cyclist to die a violent death in a chaotic circuit of roads also known as the Holborn “gyratory”.

The collision was just 200 metres away from where NHS doctor Marta Krawiec died six months ago, again under the wheels of a lorry, and almost on the same spot as Alan Neve in 2013.

Ms Ali’s friend Ala’a Al Shehabi said she was “absolutely devastated” to hear of her death while criticising London mayor Sadiq Khan for failing to make safe the “notorious Holborn junction”.

The London Cycling Campaign is demanding “rapid and bold” changes that go further than the tweaks to signage, bus stops, and lanes layout that have been introduced around Holborn in recent weeks. Today’s protest will be the fourth held by the LCC in Holborn.

LCC campaign chief Simon Munk said: “Yet again the Holborn system of one-ways and junctions has resulted in a fatal collision, the eighth since 2008. Rapid and bold change at this, and all junctions at Holborn, must happen now.

“More, we challenge all London boroughs and the mayor to not just wait for the next fatality at a junction known to be lethally dangerous for decades. Change must not come at this continuing cost.”

Police at the scene of Tuesday’s fatal collision in High Holborn. Photo: Simon Lamrock

In October Mr Munk had said the changes being introduced around Holborn “go nowhere near fixing the junction completely”.

The harrowing sight of a cordon and a forensic tent was once again in place on Tuesday just a few metres from the spot where cyclist Alan Neve died in a lorry collision in 2013.

Police said the HGV driver stopped at the scene and there was no arrest.

But they are also making fresh appeals for witnesses to come forward, in particular a woman who picked up Ms Ali’s phone and handed it to an officer.

Detective Sergeant Rebecca Collens, from the serious collision investigations unit, said: “We are especially keen to speak to a woman who handed in the victim’s mobile phone after it fell to the floor during the collision.

“We also think she may have witnessed the collision itself. Likewise, if you were driving in the area please check your dashcam for any recordings that may have captured this collision.” Anyone who witnessed the collision is asked to tweet @MetCC call 020 8246 9820 or 101 quoting CAD 1888 /01Mar.

In January Camden launched work to make its road layout changes at the junction of Southampton Row and Theobalds Road permanent.

It had in the past suggested it would rip-up the entire gyratory system around Holborn but it is now saying cash crisis at Transport for London, exacerbated by a revenue collapse during Covid-19, was making long-term planning impossible.

Adam Harrison, Camden’s lead councillor for transport, warned that “money played a role” in delays to works to make Holborn junction safe and that a new “rapid pace approach” was required.

“Uncertainty over what TfL can fund next means we may not be able to fix what we need to, and in discussions about other parts of the borough… where I have concerns, it is clear that the current situation means we are unable to plan properly for other, much-needed, safety changes,” he had added.

Sadiq Khan’s cycling champion Will Norman said: “We’re working closely with Camden to make safety improvements to the junction further north on Holborn gyratory, where Dr Krawiec was killed. We’ve got a permanent plan for improvements to the whole area, but uncertainty around TfL’s funding due to Covid forced us to pause.”

The LCC vigil is at the Holborn junction from 6pm.

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