Video: TV ad spearheads new cycle safety drive

Drivers urged to look out for bikes

An unusual cycle safety advert from Transport for London will be shown on national TV and in cinemas across the English capital to herald the launch of the mayor’s new Cycle Safety Action Plan.

The thought-provoking clip – in which it only becomes clear it’s about bike safety during the last few seconds – will be shown in primetime slots on ITV1, Channel 4 and Five.

Featuring a bank robbery, it makes the point that people often only notice what they're looking for – in this case, money, policemen and the like – to the detriment of cyclists.

Two more ads based on the same idea can be viewed at www.dothetest.co.uk. While not wanting to give the surprises away, they feature an unexpected animal appearance and some ‘spot the difference’ style changes.

Over the next year, London mayor Boris Johnson’s Cycle Safety Action Plan aims to reduce the types of collision that are most likely to result in serious accidents. These are crashes with heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), which account for more than half of London’s cyclist fatalities each year, and 'close proximity' accidents, where road users fail to give each other enough space.

Suggested measures include: 

  • Additional funding to boost the provision and effectiveness of cycle training. For details, see www.tfl.gov.uk/cycling.
  • Awareness-raising campaign to improve safety for HGVs and cyclists, including obligatory training for lorry drivers. A Lambeth Council scheme where truckers and cyclists swap places is highlighted as a way forward.
  • Working with the London Criminal Justice Board to strengthen procedures for dealing with cycling deaths and serious injuries.
  • Provision of safer infrastructure for cyclists, including the first two Cycle Superhighways, which will trial new safety features such as Trixi mirrors.
  • Distributing safety mirrors to fleet operators and working with the industry to avoid deliveries at peak times, especially on roads with high cycle flows. 
  • Working with bike retailers and manufacturers to provide safety messages at point of sale.

Despite the accent on safety, Ben Plowden, director of integrated programme delivery at TfL, was at pains to point out that London has been steadily getting safer for cyclists in recent years.

"The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on London's roads has fallen by around a fifth in the past decade, despite the fact that cycle journeys on London's major roads have more than doubled in this time," he said.

"But with an anticipated increase in the number of Londoners joining the cycle revolution following the launch of the London Cycle Hire scheme and the first two Cycle Superhighways routes this summer, we're aware that there has never been a more important time to focus on cycle safety."

UK cyclists' organisation CTC was quick off the mark to back the 52-point plan but it did highlight what it saw as weak areas:

  • Plan only promises to support those boroughs that wish to implement speed reduction measures such as 20mph zones and limits. This statement is actually weaker than the current guidance from the Department for Transport, which aims for '20mph zones and limits across most residential streets'
  • Plan suggests that action is required to improve road infrastructure and notes that 79 percent of casualties occurred at or very near junctions. However, there is no mention of the intimidation and danger posed by large gyratories and major junctions.
  • Training proposals for professional drivers appear to have been watered down. Although the draft promised cycle awareness training for taxi and minicab drivers, the final document only offers "cycle awareness information relating to safety when driving, stopping and opening doors near cyclists".
  • Threat posed by lorries is acknowledged, but there is only a voluntary commitment to reduce the number of HGVs making deliveries at peak hours. There is no proposal to change lorry access to certain routes or to force all drivers to undergo training.

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