Road Safety News

Safety concerns are barrier to more walking and cycling: Brake

Monday 16th February 2015

Fears over safety are posing a serious barrier to young people walking and cycling, according to the road safety charity Brake.

Brake surveyed 1,300 pupils aged 11-17 years in secondary schools and colleges across the UK, 47% of whom said parental concern was preventing them from taking up cycling, or cycling more often.

38% of those surveyed cited a lack of safe routes as a barrier to cycling, while 41% said traffic in their area is too fast for the safety of people on foot and bike. 37% agreed there is a need for more pavements, paths and cycle paths.

Brake says the findings “reinforce the urgent need for a cycling and walking investment strategy”, as proposed by the Government as part of the Infrastructure Bill.  The charity also says the “widespread adoption of 20mph limits in cities, towns and villages is also critical to creating safe and inviting walking and cycling environments”.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “All parents want their children to be healthy and happy, and many would love to see them walking and cycling more to achieve that. Young people want this too: it’s crucial to their health, wellbeing, and social and economic lives that they can get around easily and cheaply.

“That so many teenagers are being held back from walking and cycling by safety fears, in spite of its great benefits, is a shocking indictment of our road infrastructure.

“With the car as king in transport planning, walkers and cyclists have been for too long treated as second-class citizens. The safety of people on foot and bike is hugely important, as is enabling more people to make sustainable, active travel choices without fear of traffic danger.

“It is vital that the government builds this into long term transport planning, through the Infrastructure Bill, investment in safe walking and cycling routes, and making 20mph limits the norm in towns, cities and villages.”



Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

It's not individual modes of transport per se that are fundamentally unsafe, it's those who drive/ride them who may be 'fundamentally unsafe and should be banned' - which, in the case of motorised forms of transport, the system already provides for. Some cyclists are just as irresponsible and potentially harmful as some motorised drivers/riders but due to lack of identification such behaviour goes unchecked.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

We have to consider whether or not bicycles are fundamentally safe, whether, if they were invented today, they would meet health and safety requirements. Consider re bicycles:-
They cannot stand up on their own - need balancing
They have absolutely no crash protection
They crumple easily and thus lose balance
The riders have little or no crash protection - unlike motor cyclists.

I believe that bicycles are fundamentally unsafe and should be banned on health and safety grounds.
Robert Bolt, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (12)

It is worth bearing in mind that many contributors here are saying that if one gets rid of most of the traffic, the school run becomes safer. That is not necessarily the case; if there is less traffic, the speeds will be higher and injuries when they are sustained will likely be more serious. The awful traffic we experience on the school run is actually rather safe because the congestion leads to low-speed crashes and reduced injuries. People regularly moan about the danger of traffic during the school run when what they really want is an unhindered journey and a parking place outside their child's school.
David, Suffolk

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)


I work London, and so I know that there are very, very few places where "across the borough" cannot be done on foot or public transport, cheaply, and when school mums are not clogging the roads quickly. Oh, and given that many kids travel free in London, it's even cheaper for them. Even a weekly bus pass is cheaper than driving in almost all cases. To counter the "buses are rubbish" argument, they are far better during the holidays when there are no school run cars clogging the road. Double the number of buses at term time, halve the number of cars, and then some.

I walked my kids to school in Leeds. The furthest family from the school, well out of the catchment area, 15 min walk, 40 min drive.

There is rarely a valid excuse for the school run as a regular feature of life. As for Ipod theft and so forth, there is a very simple solution. Leave them at home, or deep in a bag.

I am far from anti-car, very pro-freedom, but I am more pro-using-the-occasional-brain-cell.

@Rod King
Did you actually read about the school run, both my comments re a local school with its shiny new zebra crossing, and the linked article about a Cambs PCSO?

The people complaining about too dangerous to let the kids cycle/walk to school are the ones breaking the rules, being aggressive, making the roads unsafe for their kids to cycle/walk to school.

Simply put, ban the school run by private motor, and the roads instantly become safer. Lees traffic = more gaps to cross = better sight lines for all = more time, space and room to react if it does all go badly wrong.
Steve, Watford

Agree (13) | Disagree (3)


I suspect the real question is not whether contributors would allow their 8-year old to cycle to school, but whether they want want a road network where the rules, roads and responsibilities are such that they would be happy to let an 8-year old cycle to school.

I would suggest that some contributors would happily forgo that "luxury" in order to maintain their own convenience.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

I'm glad to see that so many of the commentators on this story are happy to allow their 8 year old to cycle to school on their own.

Personally I feel that with the inattention of many drivers, concerned only with getting to their destination quicker and the impatience of many drivers that I experience on a daily basis as a confident cyclist I would be hesitant to allow my children to cycle on the roads.
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)

Brake's loaded surveys are just a publicity stunt to attack drivers. That said, fear is a good thing as it helps to keeps us safe - no one of any age should think that a road containing moving, heavy, essential machinery is a place to be inattentive, careless or negligent. The penalty can be death, injury or imprisonment. Brake seem to behave as though drivers are some sort of obscure, evil minority group instead of a normal majority with families, children and grandchildren.
Paul Biggs, Staffodshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (5)

One might ask who is responsible for spreading the idea that the roads are 'unsafe' in the first place? The road transport system manages a stunning 99.994% success rate for safely completed journeys which is amazing when you consider the inherent safety weaknesses in the system.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (11) | Disagree (5)

Steve said: I doubt anyone in an urban area has much more than a mile and a half to walk to school.

In an ideal world this would be true, but nowadays this is not always the case as parents often choose their childs school based on result tables, which means it is not necessarily their local school or within walking distance.

In the London borough that I work in we have two state grammar schools (one for boys and one for girls), many and varied faith schools (both primary and secondary) plus a couple of dozen private schools to which children travel far and wide to get to. Because of these reasons, parents are driving their kids from one end of the borough to the other and even into the borough from other areas, to get them to school.

Add to that families who cannot get all their children into the same primary school (we have families who have two or three kids at different primary schools) and parents who cannot get their child/children into their local school even if they wanted to because our schools are so over-subscribed due to a rapidly expanding population.

So, we have a huge amount of movement of school traffic.

Also, one of the prime things that parents worry about is the risk of them being mugged for their mobile phone or i-pod if they let them walk, not so much about them being knocked down.

Im sorry to say, this is a sad fact of life for children and families in 2015.

Agree (8) | Disagree (2)

Biggest road safety danger on the school run.... is the school run!

Try this..

Its half term this week, a journey that would normally take me half an hour took under 10 mins, despite a local road closure. Guess where all the traffic went? Nowhere because there was no school run. No double parking, nobody more concerned about bickering in the back seat, nobody parked on the crossings, or junctions.

A school near my friend's house recently had a new zebra crossing installed for safety as there was a great deal of on-street parking. This has merely created some empty kerb on the zig-zags, and even the crossing too, to be used as a drop off point.

I doubt anyone in an urban area has much more than a mile and a half to walk to school. If everybody walked, roads would be clearer (read safer), folks would be fitter, and they would actually learn a little road safety themselves.
Steve, Watford

Agree (21) | Disagree (0)

Yes we have footways, but 10% of pedestrian casualties are on the footway or verge when they are hit by vehicles. And another 15% are hit on pedestrian crossings or central islands trying to cross roads.

Maybe it is an over-reaction or an excuse for some other reason, but some parents/carers do prevent their children from walking even if it would be better.
David S.

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Are they the same frightened teenagers who are frequently seen crossing the road without looking with music plugged into their ears and staring at their phone?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Researcher, St Albans

Agree (21) | Disagree (4)

I can understand a reluctance to cycle due to a perceived danger from motorised traffic......but walking? Haven't we had footways and footpaths in towns and cities specifically provided for this purpose ever since motorised traffic has been around?

" many teenagers are being held back from walking...." By whom? How? I think Brake may be getting a bit carried away here.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (26) | Disagree (3)