Is it safe to cycle in Britain?

Backbencher November 25, 2013 4
Is it safe to cycle in Britain?

Lizzie Roberts argues that more needs to be done for cyclists’ safety.

In the last two weeks, six cyclists have been killed on the roads of London in traffic collisions. Boris Johnson has faced calls to apologise to the families for the lack of safety measures to protect cyclists in the capital. However, Boris is adamant that the chance of being killed on a bike is lower than ever in Britain. Is it safe to cycle on Britain’s roads? Or have cyclists got a death wish commuting in London? Could it be that, as some claim, the cyclists to blame?

Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, a keen London cyclist, did a segment for the BBC’s “This Week” programme arguing that politicians are confused over cycling. He argued that “they want us to cycle because we’re so fat, but they don’t want to spend the money on it making it safer.” According to Snow, politicians tend to see everything through the eyes of the motorists, which is what needs to change.

They want us to cycle because we’re so fat, but they don’t want to spend the money on it making it safer.

Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman has also come out in support of London’s cyclists following the six tragedies in 14 days, and called on Boris Johnson to ban HGV’s in the city centre at peak times. Boardman compared London to Paris, where HGV’s are forbidden from the city centre and there are restrictions on times they are allowed to travel. Consequently, there have been no cycling deaths in Paris this year. In Britain, over half of cycling deaths involve lorries, clearly showing the need to address this issue. Boardman felt that the London Mayor had let down London’s cyclists stating “When I rode alongside you to help you launch your vision for cycling in March this year, you made a verbal promise to look at the successful experiences of Paris and many other cities in restricting the movements of heavy vehicles during peak hours.” It is clear this has not been carried out; the statistics are overwhelmingly in support to restricting HGV movements, with 9 out of the 14 cycling deaths this year in Britain involving heavy goods vehicles.

According to a recent BBC report, the situation in Paris is mirrored in Berlin, which is regarded as a very safe environment to cycle in. Cycle paths in Berlin are away from the traffic, the authorities have set up a website for cyclists to list danger points, there is a mutual respect between drivers and cyclists and when learning to drive you are taught how to be aware of cyclists on the road. It is time that the UK takes note of our European counterparts and makes the roads safer for cyclists.

It is time that the UK takes note of our European counterparts and makes the roads safer for cyclists.

Many argue that the issue between cyclists and motorists in London is the lack of mutual respect which contributes to the hazardous nature of riding a bike in the capital. This absence of consideration between cyclists and drivers can be seen throughout other cities in the UK. For example, through living and cycling in Lancaster, I have experienced the dangers of biking on Britain’s roads and in the last two weeks alone a fellow cyclist has had several accidents. Many drivers do not respect cyclists because of a small minority that exhibit bad behaviour on the road: aggressive cycling, running red lights and cutting drivers up. However, as Jon Snow stated, bad behaviour will not change until cyclists get provisions to protect them on the roads, such as filters on traffic lights, secure, well-kept separated cycle ways and (crucially) warning signals on HGV’s.

The more cyclists there are in a city, the safer it is to cycle in that city. Politicians should be making the roads safer for cyclists and motorists. Cycling is a healthier, cheaper and quicker mode of transport in our busy congested cities. It should be encouraged by politicians to combat traffic, pollution and unhealthy lifestyles.

Lizzie is a second year History and Politics student at Lancaster University, with a strong passion for American politics, equality and good old British sarcasm.

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