Is enough being done about cycle safety?

It’s fair to say that 2012 was quite a successful year for British cycling. A wave of triumph began in convincing fashion when Bradley Wiggins swept to victory in the Tour de France in July, becoming the first Brit ever to win the race. Just days later, Wiggins romped to gold in the Olympic Time Trial, with his Sky team-mate Chris Froome winning bronze. Froome went on to finish in the top five at La Vuelta a Espana, before the season was rounded off with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke’s victory in the Tour of Britain.

However, all this success has brought about a problem for Britain’s road bosses: more cyclists. Ever since Wiggins’ Tour win, the number of people choosing to cycle has steadily risen. This is of course excellent news for the sport, but the dangers of roads becoming congested with cyclists are plain for all to see.

Since July, the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in accidents with larger vehicles has risen by eleven per cent. In the four months since, there have been more incidents than in the entire previous twelve months. The number of cyclists killed in Britain now stands at 110. 97 of the deaths have been confirmed as a direct result of a collision with a motor vehicle, while the remaining thirteen are still being investigated. Two of those killed were only eight years old. Five were under the age of twelve, while sixteen were teenagers. Many of the cyclists killed were elderly people, the oldest being 94 years of age. The latest victim was a man in Aberdeen making his way home from work when he was cut down by an HGV.

It would seem that not even Britain’s cycling heroes are safe. Earlier this month, Bradley Wiggins himself was hospitalised after being hit by a van which pulled out of a junction in front of him. Hours later, his mentor and coach Shane Sutton was left with bleeding on the brain and required surgery on a broken cheekbone after being knocked off his bike near Manchester. Both are now thankfully back on their bikes, but many more have not been so lucky.

Mary Bowers, a journalist working for The Times, was cycling to the paper’s offices last November when she was struck by a lorry. She remains in a coma after the incident, which saw the driver of the lorry charged with dangerous driving. A court found he was using a mobile phone at the time of the collision. The aftermath of the crash saw Bowers’ colleagues at The Times launch a ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign to improve cyclist safety on Britain’s roads. The campaign has gathered momentum over the course of the year, with more and more people taking a keen interest in cycling in the wake of the summer’s success. Many other transport organisations have come out in support of the campaign, which urges politicians to take action to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads.

However, the campaign has faced opposition from motoring bosses who have ludicrously claimed that cyclists should ‘watch out for cars.’ What they are effectively saying is that cyclists should anticipate when a car is suddenly going to pull out directly in front of them, and be able to tell that the driver who has just looked them straight in the eye is going to ‘cut them up’ at a junction. These ridiculous claims show the deep-rooted opposition to cycling among those in the motoring industry.

Many parents are afraid to let their children cycle because of the number of serious accidents involving cyclists. When cycling magazines went out onto the streets in the wake of Team GB’s cycling success at the Olympics, the vast majority of the people they interviewed said they would have liked to take up cycling, but they felt it was too dangerous. Surely, when people feel that way, it must be time for changes to be made?

However, outside of London and the south of England, it would seem that very little has been done. It appears to that drivers’ negative attitude towards cyclists remain as deep rooted as ever. Someone I spoke to told me about an incident they were involved in, when a taxi swerved out in front of them on a roundabout, hospitalising him. He told me that the driver couldn’t care less, and that ten cars drove past before anyone stopped. It is these attitudes which have to change if cyclist safety is going to improve in any way.

The government has voiced its support for the ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign, and changes are slowly coming into effect. However, until a campaign is launched targeting the attitudes drivers hold towards cyclists, people will remain reluctant to get on their bikes, and rightly so. Only when this problem is rectified can we really say that steps have been taken.

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