A proposed eight point manifesto for safer cycling

A proposed eight point manifesto for safer cycling

The Times has launched a public campaign and 8-point manifesto calling for cities to be made fit for cyclists:

  1. Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
  2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
  3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
  4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
  5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
  6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
  7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
  8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

Personally I find this a disappointing mishmash of ideas and lacking in ambition. I think that we can do better, so here is my version:

Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).

  1. Commitment to cycling: Cycling is booming in Britain and said to be worth £3 billion to the economy. But while in the Netherlands some £10-£20 per head is invested in cycling. In Scotland it is nearer £2-£3. In England the best achieved was the 2005-2011 Cycling City and Towns project, which invested around £10 per head and achieved significant growth in everyday cycle use. The Scottish government should invest 5% of its £2bn annual transport budget in active travel (cycling and walking). This is exactly in line with its own ‘Low Carbon Scotland’ proposal for £1.32bn over 11 years, and with the per-head figure which The Netherlands spends on cycling alone. Scottish local authorities should invest, from their own internal transport budgets, a proportion at least equal to their existing commuter cycling modal share, as the City of Edinburgh Council has done. Bearing in mind that the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland aim is “By 2020, 10% of all journeys taken in Scotland will be by bike.
  2. Improved provision for cycling: this must 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. This should be done following best practice from places which have a cycling modal share of 20% or greater. Local Transport Note (LTN) 2/08 and Cycling by Design 2010 should be scrapped as neither is truly fit for purpose (although the latter is better than the former). The important thing is to get rid of the concept of “dual networks” cycling should be safe for everyone, not just the quick and the bold. The Dutch and the Danes have developed their best practice over 30 years of trial and error, we have the opportunity to learn what works and avoid repeating the mistakes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. A good example of this is the “Better way to work” campaign which was run in Edinburgh last year.
  5. 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. Sentencing must be appropriate when drivers cause harm, and fines should be related to income as following the Swiss model.
  6. A focus on Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs): heavy lorries are associated with a disproportionately high risk of death or very serious injury to cyclists and pedestrians. 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 and pedestrians.
  7. A 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.
  8. 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. At a minimum, counts should be carried out twice a year using standardised protocols for data collection and handling. Where possible, electronic counters with displays should be used to count the number of cyclists passing certain routes. This both raises awareness and creates a community feeling among cyclists, as well as being a good evaluation instrument to monitor the success of the project.

If these eight points were to be taken on board and fully implemented, we could make this a happier and healthier country.

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4 thoughts on “A proposed eight point manifesto for safer cycling

  1. I read your safe cycling manifesto. Congratulations on compiling it, I would wholly support your efforts. I am by no means a student of cycling
    policy, but I guess every cyclist has an opinion! My only contribution is possibly predictable given my own interest. Have made my point below. I
    think it is related to cycle safety, but maybe indirectly. You are very welcome to disagree!

    We have to work towards a position where cycling has a stronger foothold in our culture .both in terms of the propensity to cycle and the understanding
    of cyclists among other road users.

    I presume we (in terms of current policy) are working on the assumption that we want people in urban areas to cycle to work and school, so the way to do
    that is to encourage people in urban areas to cycle to work and school. Is that rational? Does it feel like introducing a non-swimmer to the 5m
    springboard rather than the shallow end? As a child I never once cycled to school, but I did ride my bike for fun and was out cycling with the local
    club as a teenager. Today (30 years on) I cycle in the city reasonably confidently, but I learned that skill and gathered that confidence on Sunday
    mornings or summer evenings, not on the way to work or school.

    My feeling is that we have the ingredients to inspire people to cycle. I live in NE Scotland and for a long time here investment in cycling
    infrastructure has been hindered by the investment that was made into the Formartine & Buchan Railway line (former railway between Aberdeen &
    Peterhead) in the 1980s. The view of the councils has been that cycling is a bit of a waste of time because they invested in this path and it is very
    lightly used. The reason it isn’t greatly used, is that nobody wanted to go to Peterhead .and the path has extensive view of railway embankments!
    Leisure cycling investment here could have been centred on Deeside, Donside, Castles, great scenery, conservation villages, forests, nature reserves etc. We got something practical, not inspirational .and people have generally come to the view that the car was more practical than the bike.

    Now I have young kids and I love the way they are inspired by things in a way that only children can be. They are growing up with British cyclists as
    sporting icons and hopefully the next generation will pick up bikes more naturally than mine, but I just don’t think we are harnessing all that can be inspirational about cycling.

    Cycling outside the city has dangers too, but when there is no traffic, it’s so much easier to build the foundations and get people inspired/confident
    and to see cycling in a new way. Not arguing to move cycling out of the city, just that if we want culture to change, we need to sell all that is
    good about cycling. It’s the long-term consideration .broader base of the population engaging in cycling = greater weight to the cycling infrastructure argument = more investment = safer cycling! I know we would all argue this the other way around (starting with more investment), but
    danger that next generation are making same argument 30 years from now.

    1. You make some very valid points, the surveys of public opinion that have been done (and I believe several academic studies) show that around 60% of
      the population would cycle as transport (at lease some of the time) if they felt it was safer. Just recently there is a groundswell of feeling that
      something must be done to make cycling safer. I am involved with a small group who are trying to capitalise on this and push for greater change, the
      manifesto I put up was a first draft of our campaign manifesto, the wording has changed a wee bit but the ideas are the same.

      Of course making the roads safer for cycling is only part of what is needed. In my blog post “how do you get more people to ride bicycles” (https://www.kimharding.net/blog/?p=1742) I suggest that marketing of cycling as a normal activity is also important, this is based on my own observationson how place with high rates of cycling got to where they are now.

      When I lived in Aberdeen, I found that it was an horrendous place to cycle. I used to find it deeply frustrating that there was loads of fantastic countryside outwith Aberdeen but I couldn’t access it without a car. Personally I can’t help feeling that the Formartine & Buchan Railway line
      would be better off being made into a railway again than trying to use it as a cycle path.

      One of the problems with these leisure cycling projects is the assumption that people want to drive their bikes to somewhere nice to go for an off
      road ride. In other countries, there are restrictions on country roads, i.e. making them resident access only (for motor vehicles), to make them suitable to be part of a cycling network. Then they have separated cycle paths on the major routes, so that people can cycle from where they live out into the countryside. This works, as an example the Province of Salzburg has a cycling modal share of 16%, note that is the whole province not the city
      (which has a modal share of over 20%). If anyone says Scotland to too hilly for cycling, I point out that it ain’t as hilly as the Alps.

      For another perspective on rural cycling I would recommend reading some of Joe Dunckley blog posts such as these http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/tag/country-lanes where he shows how thing can work differently and it needn’t be expensive. Although he is based
      down south, some his post on Scotland are very informative (http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/tag/scotland).

    1. Good point, there is an European Union Directive (89/297/EEC (UNECE Regulation 73) – Sideguards) which mandates this use of sideguards and the UK Government has a large number of exemptions and derogations, probable on the grounds the a few dead people are better than putting cost on the road haulage industry.

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