Cycling and motoring groups join forces to brief MPs before Parliament debates cycling

A broad group of organisations - including LCC, CTC, Sustrans, Cyclenation, British Cycling, AA, National Heart Foundation, and PACTS - have released a joint briefing calling for the Government to take steps to make cycling safer in Britain.

The briefing was released just days before the House of Commons will host its first debate on cycling safety since 1996.

The debate has come about as a result of a high-profile campaign by The Times newspaper, as well as concerted efforts by other campaigners over the last 12 months to raise the issue of avoidable cyclist fatalities and injuries, particularly in urban areas.

The three-hour debate is scheduled to take place in Westminster Hall at 2.30pm on 23 February 2012.

Please ask your MP to attended the debate and support Early Day Motion 2689, which calls for improved conditions for cycling in the UK.

The following briefing was circulated to MPs on Monday 20 February:

Cycling has a fantastic range of benefits: for our health, for our streets, for our economy, our environment, and our wallets. During the last decade, cycle use in Britain grew by 20% (and by more than 100% in some cities), while cyclists’ casualties fell by 17%. More and safer cycling can, and should, go hand in hand. Yet despite this, improvements in safety for Britain’s cyclists have not kept up with that of other road users, and lags well behind that of neighbouring countries with much higher cycle use.

Quite rightly, there is now a high-profile campaign calling for cycle safety to be improved in Britain. This briefing note offers headline information on the key issues which impact on the future of cycling in Britain and includes links to further information on the vital next steps.

The key issues

A. Commitment to cycling
Cycling is booming in Britain and said to be worth £3 billion to the economy. But while between £10 and £20 per head of population is spent annually on cycling in the Netherlands, the equivalent average figure for Britain is £1.

Following the national government’s successful funding of the Cycling City and Towns programme 2005-2011, which spent at least £10 per head of population annually - national government and local authorities should secure commitments to match this level of funding.

B. Encouragement of cycling
Smarter Travel Choices. National Government and local authorities must commit to supporting safe and active travel within a wider programme of ‘smarter choices’ investment. By committing to this policy direction, we are more likely to see a joined-up package of measures. 

C. Slower speeds
In residential and built up areas. There are significant road safety benefits with a 20 mph speed limit. National government must commit to supporting, encouraging and funding local authorities to follow many of their peers and make the change to 20mph. 

D. Improved provision for cycling
to include a commitment to reviewing major roads and junctions, prioritising dedicated space for cyclists where speed limits are not already 20mph and ensuring quality infrastructure which ensures safe reintroduction of cyclists to the highway where relevant.

E. Strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
to include better information, provision and training for all road user types including cyclists from an early age.

F. focus on HGVs
Heavy lorries are associated with a high risk of death or very serious injury to cyclists. Despite being just 6% of road traffic, lorries are involved in around 20% of all cyclists’ fatalities. Government policies must ensure a commitment to the roll-out of a comprehensive package of measures to reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists.

G. Improved road traffic law and enforcement 
Traffic law must do more to protect the most vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, children and older people. In addition, traffic policing teams much be given more resource to ensure that existing laws can be enforced more effectively and sentencing must be appropriate when drivers cause harm.

H. Improved data
The information that records how many people are cycling is very poor at the national level and inconsistent at the local level. This makes it difficult to monitor what is happening and which interventions have greatest impact. 

Why do we need more cycling?

Cycling has a wide range of benefits for our own health, our streets and neighborhoods, the economy and the environment:
Health benefits
Cycling in mid-adulthood typically gives the fitness of a person 10 years younger, and a life expectancy 2 years above the average. People who do not commute regularly by cycle have a 39% higher mortality rate than those who do. Thanks to these extra life-years, the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks involved.

Physical inactivity is estimated to cost the UK economy £8.2 billion a year, while obesity represents a further economic cost of around £3.5 billion. 

Economic benefits

Cycling makes extremely efficient and economical use of road-space. One lane of a typical road can accommodate 2,000 cars per hour – or 14,000 cycles.

Encouraging cycling also makes workers more productive and reduces the costs of absenteeism.

Climate and other environmental benefits

A person making the average daily commute of 4 miles each way would save half a tonne of carbon dioxide per year if they switched from driving to cycling.

If we doubled cycle use by switching from cars, this would reduce Britain’s total greenhouse emissions by 0.6 million tonnes, almost as much as switching all London-to-Scotland air travel to rail.

Why do we need safer cycling?

A depressingly high proportion of short trips are made by car, 23% under a mile, 33% 1 – 2 miles, and 79% 2 – 5 miles. Many people in Britain would like to choose the bike as an alternative way to travel but often feel put off by a fear of traffic. As well as perceived risks which prevent take-up of cycling, there are many real dangers on the road which must be confronted everyday by cyclists.
The speed of motor traffic has an effect on the severity of injuries suffered by cyclists – severity increases with the speed limit, meaning that riders are more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries on higher speed roads.

The poor design of roads and junctions increases the danger to cyclists. Almost two thirds of cyclists killed or seriously injured were involved in collisions at, or near, a road junction, with T junctions being the most commonly involved.

Irresponsible driver behaviour has been shown to be the cause of many collisions with cyclists. In collisions involving a bicycle and another vehicle, the most common key contributory factor recorded by the police is 'failed to look properly' by either the driver or rider, especially at T junctions. 'Failed to look properly' was attributed to the car driver in 74% of injury collisions in London and to the cyclist in 26%.

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) present a particular danger for cyclists, especially in London where around 50% of cyclist fatalities involve an HGV. These often occur when an HGV is turning left at a junction'. About one quarter of accidents resulting in serious injury to a cyclist involved an HGV, bus or coach 'passing too close' to the rider.

Safety in numbers is the principle that the more people we get cycling, the safer they are. Given that we know that lots of people are put off cycling by the danger/perceived danger we need to work hard to reduce exposure to risk by reducing potential conflicts between cyclists and other road users. Governments have for too long failed to commit to sustained investment to promote cycling as a normal everyday choice of transport.

This briefing note was put together by members of the UK Cycling Alliance (UKCA) and has been supported by a wider group of organisations. For more information about UKCA members, please see: The Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cyclenation, CTC, LCC and Sustrans.