The Departed

The Ladykiller

For the last few weeks I have been analysing the STATS19 data as it relates to cycling fatalities and trying to convert it into a more user friendly dataset and also adding in more narrative data where possible, news reports, sentencing details, photos etc. I hope to have this as complete as I can make it by myself in the coming week or so once the final checks are made and then make it available via this website. In the meantime here is an interesting statistical quirk that only became obvious once all the fatalities were plotted on a map.

In 14 years there have been 14 people killed in one small circular area of central London. It is a tragedy to be sure, but not exceptional in itself, that is until you notice that it is only women who have been killed in that area, not a single man.


Blue pins are women, red pins are men

I’m no mathematician but I have a brief understanding of what a standard deviation is, it explains why from year to year amongst the hundred of millions of journeys taken and the billions of miles travelled we still end up with roughly the same number of people killed on the roads each year with only quite small variations year to year.

Since 2000, 1,408 men and 287 women have died while cycling on Britain’s roads, a ratio of 4.9:1. If we limit the area to just half the country and exclude London the figures are 675 men and 135 women, a ratio of 5:1, almost exactly the same. As the sample size reduces we deviate further from the mean, so for example if we just look at Cambridge the  numbers are 32 men and 8 women, 4:1. Or Greater Manchester 51 men and 3 women,  17:1. These variances are expected and the smaller the area the higher the likelihood of variance. Nevertheless it is still quite astonishing that right in the very heart of our capital there is an area that deviates so markedly from the mean. If we start with the national probability of 4.9:1 then the chances of flipping that coin 14 times and always getting the same result is 4,599,865,364/1, that’s four billion five hundred and ninety nine million eight hundred and sixty five thousand three hundred and sixty four to one (feel free to correct my maths, it’s almost certainly iffy).

If national averages were reflected in London then 70 men should have died in this area, yet none have. For some reason, these busy roads are particularly dangerous for women, the details of the fatalities are these…


If anyone has data on the two unknown victims, please get in touch to let me know.

Amongst these deaths we find…

13/14 deaths involve large vehicles, HGVs and buses.

12/14 happen in daylight

12/14 happen in fine weather

7/14 involve vehicles turning left

Unsurprisingly, half the cases involve large vehicles turning left but without more detailed reports we cannot say who arrived at the junction first, the cyclist or the vehicle. That there is at least one case of a vehicle running over a cyclist who was waiting ahead of it in the ASZ shows though that it isn’t just cyclist’s poor positioning at fault, even when they obey the rules they remain in danger. What is clear though is that in this area of the city the danger to cyclists comes almost exclusively from the presence of HGVs on the streets. In such situations we turn to the HSE’s hierarchy of risk control, preferred solution #1 Eliminate the hazard: remove HGVs from city streets. #2 Substitution: swap HGVs for smaller vehicles. #3 Engineering: separate HGVs and cyclists so they do not occupy the same space at the same time.

We know how people are killed but what is not so clear is why women are in much more danger? Some hypothecize that it is due to women actually taking fewer risks, not jumping red lights which instead leaves them in proximity to the HGVs. In Paris they believe the solution to this is to allow cyclists to turn right (left) on red to get them out of the way of vehicles. Other reasons I have seen are lack of experience, lack of confidence (presumably in claiming the lane), poorer spatial awareness or being slower to react to the lights changing.

Whatever the cause it is to London’s great shame that this Ladykiller exists.

lastly,  I have found details of 8 of the incidents and it seems that in seven cases the driver was deemed not at fault and in the eighth the driver received a £300 fine. This hardly encourages drivers to be aware of their surroundings, whenever a cyclist is run over on the left of a vehicle it is usually deemed to be an accident not worthy of significant punishment. Is operating a large vehicle in a city and failing to be aware of your surroundings not at least careless and frequently dangerous?


9 thoughts on “The Ladykiller

  1. Thank you for this piece – it is very interesting, although deeply saddening. The removal of HGVs from central London during the daytime is surely the way forward, for the sake of all vulnerable road users. The burden should fall on the transit companies, rather than the lives of cyclists.

  2. May be significant or not, certainly tragic. I appreciate your analysis is not complete yet, but it seems from the map you could draw another circle with mostly men killed – significant or not?
    I think you are certainly more likely to get important media attention by highlighting the sometimes incredulous sentencing inconsistency for killing cyclists, and hopefully this may influence new sentencing guidelines.

    Good work!

  3. The councils concerned – looks like City of Westminster, City of London, Islington and Camden – and Transport for London, are all bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty.

    Part of the Equality Act 2010, they are obliged to have due regard to the need to, amongst other things, “Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not”. A “protected characteristic” is legalese for things like gender, ethnicity and disability.

    Since significantly more women cyclists are being killed than men, then something is clearly going wrong – and should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

  4. Pingback: The Death Zone «

  5. Pingback: Cycling, sex difference and the problems with victim blaming | Helen Blackman

  6. A lorry driver once plonked himself at my table at the local pub and started with the statement “I f*@king hate cyclists”. We fell about laughing and told him that he was probably at the wrong table as the 6 of us had all cycled to the pub independently and two of us were also bike messengers.

    He quickly clarified with a big but and told us that he was constantly worried that he was going to hit a cyclist as they are always positioned in his blind spot. Or don’t get far enough ahead at lights when he is already stationary so they are in the blind spot under the cab. They don’t signal their intentions when turning, are often too busy looking at their phones or listening to music to know what is going on. He didn’t care whether they jumped lights ahead of him as it often removed them from the forward blind spot. He was just constantly stressed out as so many of them are under-educated as to where HGV blind-spots were and that undertaking near junctions is taking their life in their own hands. He had fitted extra mirrors, proximity sensors and cameras to his vehicle out of his own pocket and they helped but he still had cyclists coming out of nowhere and putting themselves in massive danger. I think he may have had a bad day.

    The police in central London have done many HGV awareness courses (I have taken part in one) and its astounding how big the blind-spots are and how many cyclists don’t realise the dangers. The sad truth is that we as cyclists have to ride incredibly defensively and assume the worst at every turn in order to stay marginally safe. In 2 and a half years cycling 5 days a week for 9-10 hours a day in this area, the majority of mistakes I see being made are being made by women. I see a much higher proportion of women on the phone, wearing headphones, adjusting hair and clothing and cycling up the left hand side of turning (and indicating) HGVs than men.

    I have stopped to help a women who I saw calmly cycling up the inside of a left hand turning lorry and was knocked over at the apex of the corner despite her also indicating to turn left. She had no realisation that the lorry A) couldn’t see her, that B) the body of the lorry will overhang a tight corner and C) that she had put herself in the danger zone and it was her own fault. When I tried to point out (tactfully) that it wasn’t the lorry drivers fault and that I wasn’t going to cycle after him and try and pull him over, or act as a witness when she went to the police, she became very irate with me instead as she still thought that the driver could see her.

    Along with driver education programs and the continuation of the addition of safety measures to HGVs, cyclist education programs also need to be promoted. I think the disparity highlighted in your post will be partly due to the speed of your cyclist. The majority of men cycle faster than women (and indeed get very annoyed when a woman overtakes them and then try and go even faster) which means that in the slow moving traffic in these areas will either overtake left turning vehicles or be out of the danger zone before an accident can occur.

    I’m not saying its all the cyclists fault. No way. The accident involving Min Joo Lee was very sad as the HGV simply drove over the top of her and there was nothing she could have done (I live in terror of this kind of accident, along with the car door). And I’m not trying to be inflammatory, I just think that a lot more campaigning can be done to make sure that cyclists are well informed enough to keep themselves out of danger as much as they can.

    And I love your post “What if the HSE ran the DfT?” Brilliant. I wish all cycle blogs could be this concise and I hope my comment comes across the same was, rather than just a long rant!

  7. Very interesting as someone who commutes through the area. Being male I feel safer having read this! I wish we could have a better idea of the circumstances but the information never seems to be released. Real interesting that so many in daylight.

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