What needs to be done to make cycling safe?

We asked our customers: “What can be done to make cycling on roads safer?”

The whole subject of cyclists and road users is a bit of a minefield, it still divides opinion like little else in the outdoor world. So when the government recently announced a £94 million investment into cycling in England, it caused quite a heated debate among our customers about what should, or what could be done to bring the UK alongside the continent when it comes to cycle safety.

The government investment into cycling unsurprisingly comes in the year where the Tour De France comes to Britain for one of its stages. The money is to be invested in different areas across England and our National Parks. What’s wrong with encouraging the nation to get back on their road bike? We thought this was a fantastic idea, something to get excited about. So when we asked our Facebook fans what they thought; we weren’t expecting such a divide in the responses.

The most apparent point that came out of the debate from both sides of the argument was that education is key.  There are still so many myths around the whole conversation and it becomes obvious why many road users can’t get behind cycling, as they are working with some dodgy information.

Here’s a few common reactions:

1) “Cyclists don’t pay road tax.”
That’s true, they don’t. Put neither do road users. Road tax doesn’t exist and hasn’t existed since the 30’s. Motorists pay vehicle tax and this tax is calculated based (for the most part) on the emissions that your vehicle gives out. Many newer Eco cars pay reduced vehicle tax, and some pay no tax at all. With cycling being the epitome of Eco friendly travel – do you still think they need to pay tax? Do check out http://ipayroadtax.com/ for a few rather scary examples from drivers who have completely the wrong end of the stick. Plus, many cyclists do also own cars and pay the same tax.

2) “Who is paying for the cycle paths? Cyclists should have to pay.”
The roads and paths of Britain are for everyone. Not everybody in the UK drives, but everyone does pay some form of tax. While the money earned from vehicle tax isn’t solely invested back into the road systems, no one group pays for the roads, and therefore no one group has the divine right to the roads. Many used the example of London’s seemingly empty cycle paths after huge investment; while this may be true, it’s about safety. Londoners still don’t feel safe on the cycle paths due to the drivers in London, with 3 cyclists dying in the last 3 weeks, are you surprised? Improving the cycle network with improve the uptake in cycling – the more people cycle, the more the government will have to focus on their safety.

3) “Cyclists are dangerous and don’t stick to the rules of the road.”
This can be true. There are bad cyclists, like there are bad drivers. This is where education and awareness is key. Cyclists should be made to follow the rules of the road, but so should motorists. Accidents happen when cyclists or cars are swerving in and out of lanes when they are in a rush. This kind of driving or riding will inevitably end in an accident. This is something both sides need to work on, and this is why some sort of driving education needs to be put into place (as part of the driving test, and potentially as a cyclists’ test also). This includes cyclists using correct signals, hi-vis clothing, and stopping at traffic lights. Awareness of your surroundings is something we’re all a little guilty of forgetting when we’ve been driving a while – after all, isn’t that how all road accidents occur?

4) “Britain doesn’t have a cycling culture.”
This one had us a little puzzled, Britain are one of the best cycling nations in the world when it comes to the Olympics, we’ve just won two Tour De France races in a row – and we don’t have a cycling culture? We may not be as advanced as Holland when it comes to our tolerance of cyclists, but that comes with time and with education. If cycling in the UK was safe, or safer – wouldn’t more of you cycle to work? Especially with the ever increasing cost of petrol, and the recent announcement of rising train fares. Busy trail centres, and family cycling in our National Parks and off road cycle routes proves that cycling is very much alive, it’s just not making it on to the roads as much as it should.

5) “Cyclists need insurance.”
This point is quite interesting and is something that should be looked into. If cyclists, like motorists, are to learn about road safety and potentially pass a test to prove they can drive on the roads, then is insurance too much to ask? Some cyclists do have insurance, but it’s certainly not commonplace. Holland work on a basis where if there is an accident between car and bike then it’s usually the cars fault, which makes car drivers much more careful around cyclists, and far less likely to nip into their lane to have a look down the traffic line. One Cambridge MP thinks this is how we should be doing it here in the UK too. Insurance is there to protect you and to protect the other person in the accident.

 

Cycling is a fantastic past time, and something that really should be embraced more in this country. Cycle commuting is healthy, it’s cheap and many employers are encouraging it more and more with the cycle to work scheme. The UK still has a long way to go to when it comes to cycling. Check out these stats from the European commission future of transport report.

What is your main mode of transport?

Country Bike (%) Car (%) Public transport (%)
SOURCE: EUROPEAN COMMISSION FUTURE OF TRANSPORT REPORT 2011. 1,000 PEOPLE IN EACH COUNTRY WERE ASKED; WHAT IS YOUR MAIN MODE OF TRANSPORT FOR DAILY ACTIVITIES?
Netherlands 31.2 48.5 11.0
Hungary 19.1 28.2 35.3
Denmark 19.0 63.4 11.8
Germany 13.1 60.9 14.8
Slovakia 9.5 32.3 30.9
Italy 4.7 54.4 18.2
Ireland 3.2 67.7 14.2
France 2.6 63.7 20.1
UK 2.2 57.6 22.1
Spain 1.6 47.4 30.2
EU27 average 7.4 52.9 21.8

 

31% for the Netherlands is quite staggering to our 2% – The question is, is that all down to safety?

How do YOU think we could improve cycle safety in the UK? Leave a comment below.

Alternatively, feel free to join the discussion on our Facebook page

Brandon

 

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