Cycle Safe

Today’s cycle-safe debate in parliament was attended by 75 MPs, not alas, mine. He was speaking to a handful in the main chamber on pensions.

So. Basically, everyone agrees with the Times’ campaign. Labour’s shadow transport minister basically laid out a list of cyclists’ demands. Of course she did, Labour can’t see a bandwagon without jumping on it. There was however one key concession mentioned by the minister for cycling (I did not know we had one). Cyclists are to be written into road design criteria.

That’s where campaigners have to focus. If we can get every junction, and where possible & appropriate every road, redesigned for safety for all road users, as and when they’re maintained, then in 10 years we will have a network to be proud of. Even transport for London are starting to take notice. There’s clear political momentum. Unfortunately, my experience of Tory councillors in particular is one of visceral, tribal, savage loathing of cyclists. Cyclists, you see are assumed to be Liberal Democrats.

Thankfully the biggest win of today (and it’s not much) is that the idea that Cycling is a fringe activity, for weird beards in sandals, with thermos’ of nettle tea, is a thing of the past. There was no money. Did anyone expect there to be, at this stage, in this economic environment?

13 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Get the bikes off the roads and off the pavements.

    If you want safe cycling do it in a velodrome. Bikes are incompatible with ALL other road users and their users have consistently abused all concessions made for them.

    Youv'e had your chance, you blew it, now get off our roads and pavements.

    • Luke
      Luke says:

      Dude, do you remember Danny Care wittily tweeting"I hate cyclists, get a car"? That was before he was banned for drink driving.

      This poster reminded me of Danny. Maybe it is. Anyway, given your high profile and interest in rugby and cycling, you are hereby nominated president of the "Get a bike Danny" campaign, a charity dedicated to raising funds so that Danny can get a bike now he needs one. Laurence Dellaglio as chairman?

  2. Antisthenes
    Antisthenes says:

    "There was no money. Did anyone expect there to be, at this stage, in this economic environment?"

    It is a pity that sentiment has not been expressed more fervently and acted upon in the past when laudable but unaffordable proposals have been proposed then subsequently put into practice.

    I am ambivalent about cyclists. My experience with them have mostly been of a negative nature. However in the spirit of being fair I would support them being accommodated on an equal footing with other road users as and when it is practicable and affordable.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Luke, I think a Harlequins and former England rugby star can buy his own damn bicycle! I'd happily advise him on a good one though.

    Antisthenes, It's a shame. The design of the roads pits road users against each other. Most, the vast, vast majority of drivers are fine. It's a small minority of mainly young, working class men who ruin it for everyone. For some reason, an arshole in a car is less memorable to the average motorist than an angry person on a bicycle.

    I put a lot of the "I hate cyclists" down to the availability heuristic, followed by confirmation bias.

  4. Westerlyman
    Westerlyman says:

    I am a driver and the owner of a transport company. I pay a lot of money to comply with regulations to use my vehicles and a lot of taxes.

    I believe cyclists have as much right to use the roads as anyone else but most of our roads are completely unsuited to cycle use and need adapting to ensure the safety of everyone on them.

    However I do not like the fact that cyclists contribute nothing financially to the road network and many of them use the road in a dangerous manner exhibiting little road sense or appreciation for other users.

    Yes I understand their feelings of vulnerability when using the roads and I would hesitate to ride a cycle myself on many roads but their use of this and constant squeals of car users treating them badly gets on my nerves. I spend quite an appreciable amount of my work driving and being stuck behind a cyclists who holds streams of traffic up or who rides up the nearside of my vehicle when there is no cycle lane marked.

    There must be some sort of penalty for poor or dangerous use of the roads by cyclists and they should pay something towards the development of safer roads for cyclists. Rights have responsibilities, and costs.

  5. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Westerlyman. Thanks for your comment.

    There are penalties for poor cycling. Cyclists face a GREATER chance of gaol than a motorist should they (heaven forbid) kill someone for example.

    Roads are paid for out of general taxation,which cyclists being on average wealthier (or much poorer) pay too. In general, Cyclists are MORE likely to own a car than the general population. (check hansard), so most cyclists do indeed pay VED.

    And a cycle does no damage to the road. A 2 ton car or 10 ton truck causes the road surface to crack up. The externalities asociated with bicycle use are infinitely lower than those of car use, So a bike's taxation is reasonable.

    Switzerland tried to regulate bikes. It killed transport cycling, cost about 3 times what it raised to administer and was abandoned as a costly failure. To what problem is a bike license plate a solution?

    Though it's put reasoably, this is the old "scofflaw cyclists don't pay road tax and are unregulated". It's an expression of ignorance and prejudice, and simply dismissed using the facts and figures. I hope this answers your questions.

  6. Westerlyman
    Westerlyman says:

    Thanks for your reply and I stand corrected on the financial issue.

    You say cyclists face stiffer penalties for killing someone on the road. I have no way to know if this is true but it must be fairly rare.

    However the instances of cyclists riding dangerously are legion. I see loads every day and I have never seen a cop pull a cyclist over to caution them.

    However my main concern is that many of our roads are unsuitable for safe cycle use. But even where 1000's have been spent to provide cycle lanes or pathways many cyclists do not use them. (I live in Dorset and Poole and Bournemouth councils have spent a lot on cycle paths which are often empty with cyclists riding on the often narrow road.)

    Finally, I did not propose regulation of cyclists. I would prefer less regulation of everybody, in all things.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    You say cyclists don't damage roads, well they don't keep them in good repair either.

    Before the introduction of the car roads were surfaced with stone chippings. The rubber tyres of car loosened these chippings and generated dust clouds. This led to the 'macadam' surface with a tar binder and later to the use of ashphalt. However all of these surfaces need to be 'rolled' to keep them compacted. To a certain extent the motor vehicle does this. Indeed some might say that highway authorities rely on this method too much when a road is resurfaced.

    Bikes don't provide this rolling action, in fact they do the reverse as can be seen on any bridlepath that they have traversed. The result is that where cycleways have been reserved at the margin of a conventional road the surface quickly degrades, which is probably one reason why these reserved zones are hardly used by cyclists.

  8. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Westerlyman, I understand how frustrating it must bee to see cyclists not using the cycle lanes thoughtfully provided by the council. More often than not, those cycle lanes are too narrow, putting the cyclist far too far over to the left, prompting motorists to squeeze past thinking "he's in his space, I'm in mine, must be OK". It isn't, especially when the road narrows at a pedestrian refuge for example. Often cycle lanes pass parked cars, in the absolutely lethal door-zone. There are good reasons why cyclists don't use bad lanes.

    Impatient motorists wanting to get past where it isn't safe or appropriate is the #1 cause of injury (HGVs at junctions being the #cause of death). A confident vehicular cyclist rides to avoid these hazards. The safest place is paradoxically right in your way where you can see me, and can't ignore me.

    Much "reckless" behaviour observed by motorists is misunderstanding of what cyclists are doing and why, and this includes red light jumping.

    No-one wins from this. You think I like (apparently deliberately) holding up an increasingly irritated driver?

    Build and maintain (Anon, cars DO NOT maintain the road, nor are smooth roads because of the car, see here ) proper cycle paths (rural A & B roads a priority), and design urban junctions to protect cyclists, and you would have less conflict.

  9. Paul M
    Paul M says:

    Westerleyman – this is a thoughtful exchange and it is good to see you are not immune to being persuaded. I see Jackart didn't specifically pick up your comment on "dangerous" cycling.

    "Danger" is a tricky concept because it can be seen in at least two ways – objectively, as what has actually happened in a bad way (accident stats) and subjectively, as what is feared, perceived or predicted might happen. Cycle campaigners are at least as keen as you to see separate facilities for cyclists in some situations not because the road is necessarily objectively dangerous, but because it is subjectively – it frightens off too many potential cyclists and promoting cycling is considered by all parties to be a good thing. Perhaps I am then showing bias if I say that I think the danger some people (pedestrians) see in cyclists is overplayed, but those historic stats show us that the risk of a pedestrian being seriously hurt or killed by a cyclist, even the worst-behaved, is vanishingly small. The last full Hansard statistics for 1998-2007 cited 263 pedestrians killed by motor vehicles for every one ped killed by a cyclist – all road situations. Even on footways only one in 50 pedestrian deaths were due to cyclist collisions. In other words, that dangerous practice of cycling on a pavement is nothing compared with what cars do on the pavement!

    And it's not hard to see why. Most danger arises where there is a significant difference in the kinetic energy of neighbouring road users – like between a 75kg adult male cyclist and a 15 tonne HGV travelling at 30mph. The energy difference between a cyclist and a pedestrian is negligible and the cyclist knows that he is probably more likely to be hut than the pedestrian, so a cyclist who risks collisions with a pedestrians is reckless indeed

  10. Westerlyman
    Westerlyman says:

    As I said earlier I live and work in Dorset and drive HGVs. Dorset is mostly rural roads (there are no motorways in our beautiful county) and even the main routes are mostly single carriageway A roads and often hilly.

    The point is that an HGV does not have sufficient acceleration to safely overtake a cyclist where a car will easily have time to leave a safe margin before the next bend or dip in the road.

    I do not blame cyclists for this problem as we are all users of the roads but many cyclists seem unaware of the issue. I often spend miles and miles unable to pass a cyclist(with a long queue behind me) because it is unsafe to pass when the cyclist could share the road simply by pulling off for a minute every now and then.

    You say that the number one cause of deaths in cyclists is from HGVs at junctions and I can believe this. It is hard to generalise about circumstances but again I get the feeling that some cyclists take the attitude that they have as much right to the road as anybody else (they do) but without sufficient appreciation that a driver of an HGV has a number of problems like width, length and extremely poor visibility to the side and rear of their vehicles. These are working vehicles driven by professional drivers who (mostly) take their duty of care to other road users extremely seriously. It seems that some cyclist are more interested in asserting their rights than they are in understanding the challenges faced by other road users.

    • Luke
      Luke says:

      Westerlyman, a very thoughtful contribution. I do try to pull over to let vehicles pass, but had not thought previously of the particular problems of hgvs. I will do my best in future, particularly if i'm lucky enough to be in Dorset.


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