UK cycle safety was in the spotlight today after The Times launched a ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign that coincided with the release of new casualty statistics by the Department for Transport.
The Times deemed the issue important enough for a front page headline, “Save our Cyclists”, calling it “a campaign to improve the safety of cycling in Britain’s towns and cities”. Inside, the newspaper detailed an eight-point manifesto, ranging from requiring trucks to be fitted with more safety equipment, to devoting more of the Highways Agency budget to building cycling infrastructure, to improving training for cyclists and drivers.
The catalyst for the campaign was an accident involving Times journalist Mary Bowers, who was hit by a lorry while on her way to work and suffered life threatening injuries. Bowers is still unconscious, while her colleagues question why she and others have joined the growing number of cyclists killed and seriously injured (KSI) in the UK.
Department of Transport figures show that KSI statistics for pedestrian, motorcycle and car users fell by between one and seven percent in the past year. Cyclist KSIs for the same period, however, increased by eight percent, including a four percent rise in the number killed. And although the number of miles cycled does appear to be increasing as well, British roads doesn’t appear to be getting any safer.
IAM (the Institute of Advanced Motorists) called the long-term trend in KSI statistics for cyclists “deeply worrying”, citing a 17.5 per cent increase in cyclist casualties between 2007 and 2011. The organisation’s director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said: “It’s extremely concerning that cyclist casualties are not reducing and this is something the Government and local councils must act on. This will mean changes to road layouts, more cycle training and promoting better awareness among drivers.”
British Cycling lent its voice in support of cycle safety. The UK’s governing body for cycling called for more “mutual respect between motorists and cyclists” along with “greater cycle awareness in the driving test and Highway Code”, “better enforcement of the law on mobile phone use while driving” and improvements to “poorly laid out roads and junctions”.
“It’s essential that we get away from this sense of ‘them and us’ between motorists and cyclists,” said Ian Drake, BC’s chief executive. “Most people who ride a bike also drive a car which suggests there should already be some mutual understanding. Now more needs to be done to build on this and create a culture in which all road users can better respect each other. And it’s important to stress that cyclists have as much of a role to play in this as motorists, by ensuring they adhere to the rules of the road with regards to things like stopping at red traffic lights and signalling correctly.”
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