Sunday, 17 November 2013

Thoughts on cycling...


I've got a bike. You can ride it if you like.
It's got a basket, a bell that rings and
Things to make it look good.

I don't cycle. Indeed I gave my bike to my son a week or so back for him to travel to and from work. I used to cycle, back in the days when cycling five miles to school in South London was a done thing (and when schools, famously, had bike sheds behind which you could smoke).

So I was curious about the recent modest hullabaloo about cycling accidents where, if I understand correctly, they are all the fault of Boris Johnson.

The thing is that the number of cyclists involved in accidents has increased as the number of cyclists has increased. The CTC reports that the mileage cycled has increased by 20% over the past decade and that around 750,000 people regularly cycle to work.

It may be that, as numbers of cyclists increase, awareness levels increase too - both because cyclists are more expected on the roads but also that more drivers are also cyclists. And some research supports this contention:

The likelihood that a given person walking or bicycling will be struck by a motorist varies inversely with the amount of walking or bicycling. This pattern is consistent across communities of varying size, from specific intersections to cities and countries, and across time periods. (Jacobsen, 2003)

So more cycling means lower risks (although not necessarily fewer injuries in absolute terms, which is the reason for the silly spat over Boris) for cyclists but not for motorists.  The question is whether there's a point at which the critical mass of cyclists has sufficient of an effect on driver behaviour to begin to see the risks for the motorists fall as they are for the cyclist.



westcoast2 said...

While agreeing with what you have said about accidents, this slightly misses the point of the 'spat' with Boris.

Where are the accidents occurring? They seem to be happening on cycle lanes. If we had no cycle lanes your observation would hold up.

What seems to have happened is that cycle lanes and in particular cycling super highways were meant to be safe and protective for cyclists. Early on people pointed out that there were issues with CS2. This has sadly been the case and hence the 'spat' you refer to.

I made a similar point about cycle lanes at the Last Ditch

Some have suggested that we would be better off without cycle lanes or segregation since they say this would, as you have also said lead to "a point at which the critical mass of cyclists has sufficient of an effect on driver behavior to begin to see the risks for the motorists fall as they are for the cyclist"

Others disagree and look to infrastructure and road re-engineering.

There are merits in both approaches, depending on the situation and design.

If the Mayor is going to spend money on this, which is welcome, then serious thought needs to go into making people safer rather than the opposite.

Carl Minns said...

I have been commenting on my bike since September and apart from one day last week the biggest danger on the roads seem to be many other cyclists ignoring the Highway Code and pedestrians randomly walking into the road without looking.

The one issue from car users I have is that at a junction where I have right of way they seem to think they can get out before I get there - that's led to a few hairy moments!

The key to safe cycling is not just looking right in front of your face but looking fifty odd yards ahead to anticipate danger.