Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Safer Streets Encourage Cycling

My firm, Bolt Burdon Kemp, recently launched a Cycle for Life campaign with the road safety charity, Brake. The strongest issue in this campaign is for a widespread 20 mph limit in communities to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

To get the ball rolling, we undertook a joint survey to assess the views on cycling amongst 1,500 road users. The results were interesting but, to me at least, not unexpected. The key point to come out of the survey is that 35% would switch to cycling for their commute if the route was less dangerous and 46% would make other local journeys by bike given safer roads.

The impact of these potential cyclists choosing not to cycle has a significant reach. If all these people were to start regularly cycling, the roads would be exponentially safer for cyclists. There is plenty of evidence to show that an increase in the number of cyclists leads to reductions in cycle casualties. For example, London has seen an enormous rise in cycling over the last 15 years and there has been a corresponding 33% fall in cycle casualties. It stands to reason that drivers who are more used to dealing with cyclists on the road will be better educated in how to deal with them and more alert to the presence of a cyclist.

In addition, the health benefits of cycling cannot be overstated. Cycling regularly has been shown to be the most effective thing an individual can do to improve health and increase longevity. On 10 May 2004, the UK parliamentary health committee published a report which noted that “If the Government were to achieve its target of trebling cycling in the period 2000-2010 … that might achieve more in the fight against obesity than any individual measure we recommend within this report.”

On 21st April 2009, over three years ago now, the government was presented with the paper “A Safer Way: Consultation on Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World.” The proposals recommended that local authorities introduce 20 mph zones around schools and for residential areas. This is heartily backed by the population, drivers and cyclists alike. It is astonishing that this popular, valuable and efficient measure has not been implemented further to encourage cycling, thereby promoting good health, and improving the safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

The introduction of 20 mph zones has started, and Islington (from where I now type) is not alone in introducing a near blanket 20 mph limit, but movement has been slow. Since cycling is now a front-page issue, surely the government need to act swiftly to encourage the implementation of far-reaching 20 mph zones. It is a crime that so many are put off cycling when such simple measures could push the potential cyclist into being a committed commuter cyclist.

3 comments:

  1. I would fully support this. Right now, I don't ride all the way to work - just part of it. The reason is because there's a middle 3-4 miles on a road with a very small shoulder where cars are hitting 40+mph, and it's just scary. So for now, I drive until I hook up with the network of bike paths (and lanes, in places), then I switch over to riding my bike, which is a folding bike that I keep in my trunk. If the speed limits were lowered (and people actually followed them) I think that small shoulder road would be a lot less intimidating. Even better would be to expand the shoulder/add a bike lane...dare to dream.

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  2. Hi Chris

    Thanks for your comment. I read today that the biggest reason stopping people cycling regularly is fear of faster roads, much as you have described. It is such a shame that more is not done to change this.

    I've always felt that one of the strengths of cycling in London is that cars are not routinely able to get above 30mph.

    Oliver

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  3. No problem - thanks for your comment.

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