Over half say UK roads unsafe for cycling

But is 'safety' the wrong message?

A recent survey by UK cycling and walking charity Sustrans found that 56 percent of those questioned fear urban roads are unsafe to cycle on.The other headline finding of the survey was that 70 percent of respondents want residential speed limits to be dropped to 20 mph to make them safer.

Two thirds of those that don’t cycle regularly would be more likely to cycle on the roads if they were made safer through such changes as lower speed limits, more marked cycle lanes and more care taken by drivers and other cyclists, according to the new survey.

The survey broke down those questioned into various groups to give some interesting results; 63 percent of women but only 49 percent of men came to the 'unsafe' conclusion whilst region by region Northern Ireland was most fearful at 75 percent and Yorkshire the most confident, even though exactly half of respondents from here still felt the fear factor.  

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Cycling safety: views from the public

Sustrans' figures are backed up by the report Climate Change and Transport Choices conducted on behalf of the Department for Transport in 2011. It found six in ten people in England who are able to ride a bicycle are deterred from cycling to work because they believe that “it’s too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads.”

Removing the fear will not be easy, however. Dave Horton has produced an exhaustive study of the role of fear in limiting the uptake of cycling and concluded three main factors (other than busy traffic) contribute to the fear of cycling - all ironically products of the desire to get more people cycling safely. Horton thinks road safety campaigns, helmet wearing campaigns and the idea that cycling should be 'traffic-free' are all feeding into a wider fear of cycling on the roads and discouraging it.   

The Sustrans press release also quotes the recent launching of a campaign by the Times newspaper that specifically aims to put further pressure on politicians to act to make the roads safer for cyclists.

The Times' eight point manifesto calls for:

  • Legal requirements for lorry safety measures  
  • A redesign of the country's most dangerous 500 junctions
  • A national cycling audit to produce reliable stats
  • 2% of Highways Agency budget for cycle routes
  • Cycle safety a core part of the driving test
  • 20mph default speed limit in residential areas
  • Business sponsorship of cycleways
  • Every city to have a cycling commisioner or equivalent

The survey and Times campaign come ahead of a Parliamentary debate on cycling safety on Thursday 23 February. 

Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive for Sustrans, said “People shouldn’t have to feel they’re taking a risk when they travel on two wheels in our towns and cities. This is yet another wake-up call for politicians who must act now to save lives and take the fear out of everyday journeys."

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