Road Safety News

Government must show “long-term commitment” to cycling

Thursday 24th January 2013

The Government needs to show long-term and committed leadership at the very highest level if Britain is to become a nation of cyclists, a parliamentary inquiry into getting more people on to bikes has heard (Guardian).

Currently around 2% of Britons use a bike as their main mode of transport, one of the lowest levels of all 27 EU nations. MPs and peers were told that catching up continental neighbours on cycling levels will require the sort of strategic, non-partisan planning seen on other major transport infrastructure projects, such as high-speed rail lines.

Phillip Darnton from the Bicycle Association trade group, said: “We will not create a cycling culture until we have leadership that makes it clear this is a commitment for the long term. This is not a party-political thing.”

The commitment needs to be like that made in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands several decades ago, Mr Darnton said. “We need to take that stance and no political party ever questions it again. We could start tomorrow if we wanted,” he added.

The inquiry, called Get Britain Cycling, was set up by the all-party parliamentary cycling group in an attempt to turn enthusiasm for cycling following the Olympics and Bradley Wiggins's Tour de France win into an increase in the numbers using bikes for regular transport. Another key impetus for the inquiry was a concerted and energetic cycle safety campaign set up by the Times after one of its reporters was severely and permanently injured while cycling.

The first of six evidence sessions saw input from cycling groups such as the national campaign group the CTC, British Cycling and Sustrans, experts including Mr Darnton, academics specialising in cycle use and media including the Guardian and the Times.

Click here to read the full Guardian report.


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Rod and Idris.

Thanks for your contributions to this thread but I'm now going to draw a line under the debate between the two of you. If you have each other's email addresses you may wish to continue a personal dialogue.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

Dear Fight Back.

Thank you for your clarification. I am sorry that I took you so literally, and that I was not aware that some of the facts you present as facts are actually “off the cuff”.

In future I will allow at least a 25% tolerance on any such “facts” presented without references.

If you do want some real studies of comparative risks between cycling and driving, then here are a couple of very pertinent reports and an article:-

The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study
Rojas-Rueda, de Nazelle, Taino, Nieuwenhuijsen

Bicycling: Health Risk or Benefit?
Kay Teschkea, Conor C.O. Reynoldsb, Francis J. Riesc, Brian Gougec, Meghan Wintersd

The Telegraph - Driving is five times more dangerous than cycling for young men
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

Steve - Rod's "correction" was itself wrong, substituting 4 for the DfT's 3.7, failing to adjust for cars averaging 1.6 occupants. Corrected numbers confirm cycling is 15 times more likely to kill a particular person on a particular journey than driving - closer to my off-the-cuff 20 than Rod's 8.75. Similarly motor-cycles (assuming 1.1 riders) are 49 times more likely to kill, buses/coaches (assuming 25 occupants) 24 times less likely.

Rod then skewed the comparison even further by changing the basis from per mile, which matters, to per trip, which is irrelevant.

I used "mischievous" to be as polite as I could in the circumstances.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

And Idris, I don't think it's mischievous to take the statement "Any cycle journey is 20 times more likely to kill than in a car" as it clearly implies trip based.

However in your defence, in your original post you do say "per mile".
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (2) | Disagree (4)

Idris: I would disagree, the money is there, it just needs to be made available - i.e. diverted from the main highways budgets at the expense of some road schemes. As I pointed out, it would eventually pay for itself, as opposed to general road building schemes which appear to be throwing good money after bad. There is also plenty of space available, simply do as they do in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, traditional cities, much smaller than most of ours, and take it from the already excessive motor vehicle space.

Bob: I'm not disputing that money has been spent on cycling, however it has been wasted by and large on useless, indirect, appalling infrastructure and ineffectual training schemes. I refer you to Warrington Cycle Campaign's excellent website:

It is time the money was spent wisely and start stopping the 'kindemoord'.
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

You are mischievous to misread my comparison of a given journey in "Any cycle journey is 20 times more likely to kill than in a car" as being "trip based". It clearly was not, it was distance based.

We all know that most people drive much further than they could possibly cycle and that this explains why more people are killed in cars than on bikes, but that is irrelevant to my point that cycling is much more dangerous means of moving from A to B. I agree with you in wishing it were not, but it is.

In no way have I suggested that people should give up cycling, all I am doing is providing risk information. Nor do I suggest that anyone should give up mountaineering or diving 100 feet into the sea on an island in the middle of the Atlantic - each to his own, but better in informed assessment not nonsense and misleading propaganda.
Idris Francis Fightback With Facts Petersfield

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

Steve - and in part to Rod - of course I would like safe cycle lanes everywhere. If there had been 20 years ago I might have used my then new bicycle - and buying one surely confirms that I am not opposed to them.

My point was simple - you and I and everyone can beg and plead and campaign all we like, but it simply isn't going to happen to any meaningful extent because (a) by and large, the space is not available and (b) the money is not available, especially now.

The plain fact is that urban roads are too narrow to allow safe and continuous cycle lanes on the sides of roads without demolishing innumerable buildings. On rural roads the costs of widening them, moving hedges etc would be utterly prohibitive, and totally disproportionate to the number of cyclists. I wish it were otherwise, but it ain't.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

The motor industry contributes some 46 Billion pounds to the exchequer whereas the cycle industry contributes almost nothing. Why then would any government bother to invest in cycling when they are guaranteed to get nothing back for it?

Cycle/moped/electric only routes into the major cities would be a fantastic idea, but there are already far too many subsidised transport systems in existence for the government to want to spend money on another one.

If the cycling lobby could work out ways in which they might contribute towards the investment needed, then the taxpayer might start to take them seriously.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (12) | Disagree (2)

If one looks at the last few years on this site there have been many numerous reports since 2009 and covering up to the year 2014 that this government has and will make some £1000,000,000 available to support the cycling fraternity. They give and have promised that money freely to many varied cycle charities and other organisations that specialise in using such monies in the manufacturing and infrastructure of cycling both on the road and off road, on the rail networks and using disused old railway tracks and other green belt highways away from traffic. That money does not include some which has come from other local authorites.

Quite a fortune for someone and still they want more. As I have said before and will say again whilst other organisations are looking at shared space and cost savings the cycling fraternity will not be happy unless they have their own highways and byways built at our expense.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (4)

Dear Fightback

I also am an engineer, but of the Automobile variety rather than Electrical.

I also prefer facts to glib, ill-thought out ideas. Let's look at your recent statement that "The chance of being killed, per mile, is 20 times greater cycling than driving." Well for 2011 the figures per billion km were car 4 and cycle 35. (DfT Road Casualties 2011)

To me that is a ratio of not 20:1 but 8.75:1.

Now let's look at your last post when this 20:1 figure per mile suddenly becomes "Any cycle journey is 20 times more likely to kill than in a car" and therefore trip based. According to the DfT 2011 National travel survey the ave car trip was 8.5 miles and cycle 3 miles. hence the risk ratio per trip is actually 8.75 * 3 / 8 = 3.28

So do you agree that your original 20:1 factor was not factual?

By the way, the fatalities per billion km for walking were higher than cycling at 41. Are you suggesting that people give up walking as well as cycling?
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)

Idris, as you point out you are far more likely to be killed cycling than driving. But do you really think that we should resign ourselves to this? Do you really think that more children, adults and perhaps more pertinently, brittle boned old codgers should have to die because cycle infrastructure costs money?

Good quality bicycle infrastructure presents much better value for money than road building as it would need far less repair and resurfacing. It would also pay for itself in increased house prices, reduced strain on the NHS and proven boosts to local spending.
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (9) | Disagree (3)

Abuse no substitute for facts. As an engineer I prefer facts to glib, ill-thought-out ideas, hence my web site. Here are a few:

I cycled a great deal in rural Wales but working in West London, its traffic, and with time at a premium, I stopped. But like riding a bike, I did not forget what I knew.

Any cycle journey is 20 times more likely to kill than in a car (40 for motor-cycles) - DfT data.

Bones become brittle with age, whether I fall off a bike or dive horizontally to intercept a tennis passing shot (I used to do both) I would likely break something now.

I prefer to stay out of hospital, where the risk of accidental death per hour is some 300 to 600 times greater than 70mph in a car on a motorway - simple arithmetic based on DfT data and
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (6) | Disagree (9)

Dear Fight Back with Personal Anecdotes

I am sorry to hear that you got sweaty in 1963 and then subsequently 28 years later selected the A32 as your inaugaural born-again cycle ride.

As these appear to be the extent of your experiences of such matters then I am sure that we can all work out the relevence of your comments regarding the cost of cycle facilities and the health benefits of cycling.

I am sure that the "views from behind the steering wheel of an Alvis" will remain a popular distraction from the serious matters covered in this website.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (9) | Disagree (6)

A keen but not particularly fast cyclist until then, I cycled 12 miles across London to work in 1963 (I had decided on a 22mpg Consul convertible instead of a 40mpg Minor convertible). I arrived late, soaked in sweat, no shower, when I came out at 5.15 my bike had been stolen. I was very pleased.

Next bike in 1991 to exercise cycling to lunch - one look at A32, hung it from my garage rafters, where it remains.

If I fall off a bike at my age, even without colliding with anything, I will probably break something. The chance of being killed, per mile, is 20 times greater cycling than driving. As there is no money to build cycle lanes all over the place, more cycling will lead to more deaths and injuries - but then again, they will be fit, right up to the moment they are not.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (8) | Disagree (14)

My challenge is for an LHA to consider a radial route into a city centre (outside London), say 5 miles long or so that is almost entirely segregated,yet direct. These are the sorts of interventions that would make a difference. Make use of wide central reserves, convert a traffic or bus lane to a cycle only lane (3.5m wide lane), tie into park paths, CPO small plots of non-highway land if needs be if that avoids pinch points.
pete, liverpool

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

The strength and success of a bicycle can be found in its structure that has changed little in the passage of time. The strength of long term commitment to cycling by the Government has yet to be seen.
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)