Perception can be everything, not least for the vulnerable cyclist who appears to be at most at risk when taking to busy, city centre commuter routes. A recent spate of six cyclist fatalities in the space of 14 days just a fortnight ago appears to have put the brakes on for one in five of those who cycle in London, according to a new study by ComRes, polling and research consultancy.
A poll of 1,070 adults, a quarter of whom said they were cyclists, reveals that in the two weeks since the 18th November when a 60 year old male cyclist was struck and fatally injured by a lorry, 20 per cent of cyclists said they had “stopped cycling” to work and 68 per cent “disagreed that it was safe” to cycle on London roads.
The gap between perceived risk and actual risk
Cyclists have unquestionably decided cycling has become more dangerous and ComRes also found that 63 per cent of cyclists admitted they cycled on pavements to avoid dangerous roads and junctions. Many serious injuries and fatalities occur as vehicles turn left at junctions and are often cited on bicycle accident claims.
According to Transport for London (TfL), there were 68 cyclist deaths between 2008 to 2012 compared to 82 fatalities between 2003 and 2007, indicating that cycling was “not getting more dangerous” in the capital.
Yet Department of Transport (DfT) figures show that the total number of pedal cyclist casualties killed, seriously injured and slightly injured increased by 12 per cent in April-June 2013 compared to April-June in 2012, the same year that the DfT reported cyclist casualties were at five year high.
To put this in context, in Oct 2012, a National Transport Survey reported that cycling on the road in the UK had increased, on average, by 12 per cent over the last ten years. The rise in the cycling commuter population is putting pressure on the authorities to address road traffic safety culture and prevent a serious escalation in cyclist injury and fatality.
Removing the basic risk factor
The debate around cycling safety and developing sustainable infrastructure has become more visible on the political agenda in 2012/13. Yet Government investment plans to improve selected cycling tracks and safety at junctions in just eight cities around the UK over the next ten years are viewed as inadequate by cycling organisations who say that only clear separation between cyclist and other road users would be the safest option. In other words, removing the basic risk factor of any contact between cycle and vehicle.
In the aftermath of the six fatalities, there was talk of cyclists improving their safety by not wearing headphones, although no evidence was thought to have been produced to show that any of the six were wearing headphones when they were struck by vehicles. Further ideas about banning lorries from making deliveries during the morning rush hour were aired although such a scheme would be difficult to enforce and would not recognise the importance of lorry traffic to the economy.
Discussion over cycling safety is likely to become even more high profile in 2014, every one of the major political parties is committed to including a cycling policy in their next election manifesto, even as cyclists perceive an increased accident risk and leave their bikes at home...
Click here to download cycling survey PDF from ComRes website