Browsed by
Tag: save money

It is time to stop the killing on our roads

It is time to stop the killing on our roads

This year has seen an upsurge in the number of people dying on our roads, sadly those with the power to change things don’t seem to be interested, so we need to send them the message: It is time to stop the killing on our roads!

Our roads are not a war zone, this is not the fog of war, people dying on our roads are not some poor buggers who have wandered into their covering fire, they are not collateral damage. They were just ordinary people going about their business who died needlessly before their time. Now is the time to make it stop, we can do something about it, but it needs political will. Throwing money at dualing roads won’t save lives. Lowering speed limits, better infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users, strengthening the law and enforcing it, these are things which save lives. It is not rocket science, there is much we can learn from just across the North Sea. We can make our country a better place to live for all, Active Travel IS a matter of social justice. Here are some Manifesto suggestions for Active Travel, let’s push our political representatives to take them seriously. After all, they are there to serve the people.

An open letter to my MSPs

An open letter to my MSPs

Dear MSPs,

There’s a short window of opportunity to gain a modest one-off boost to Scottish cycling investment. The Scottish Government is to receive £279m for capital investment projects as a result of the UK Chancellor’s Spring Budget.

The reasons for spending a significant proportion of this money on cycling infrastructure should be obvious: active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer), it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is good for the economy as people who arrive by active travel are more productive (the smart companies, like Google, are relocating to city with good cycling infrastructure for this very reason), and it reduces peoples reliance on expensive fossil fuels.

This extra money gives the chance to try something different, how about using £20m to set up a into a special award fund to which councils could bid for a large sum, so that Scotland could implement two or three ‘exemplary projects’ providing high quality European-style cycling infrastructure in an area of a city or town, and including at least one main-road corridor. This is an opportunity which really should not be missed, the potential return on investment is huge, as has been shown south of the border where the cycle demonstration towns showed returns of 19:1!

However, time it short please press John Swinney and Keith Brown to cease the day, Carpe diem!

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding, Bsc, MPhil

———————–

So far I have had one reply to this letter:

Thank you for your email.

The vast majority of the £279m comes from allowing the Scottish Government to administer funds arising in Scotland from the state-backed mortgage plan. This is why it has been derided as ‘funny money’ by John Swinney, as you may have seen in the media. There is a robust exchange in progress between the governments over how much flexibility there should be over this money. I would certainly be supportive of additional funding for sustainable and active travel, and in particular your suggestion of a flagship community approach is an interesting one – provided of course that there is a local authority keen to bid for it. If there is sufficient flexibility this should be a very strong contender for funds.

There is also however a cut of £103m to year-to-year funding. This includes a £50m+ reduction in the budget for the financial year starting the week after next, when a budget has already been set. Services that have to absorb this cut may well argue that they should be at the front of the queue for any flexibility in the capital funding if that can be used to offset the effect of these cuts.

Yours
Marco Biagi (SNP)

———————–

Addendum:

Next reply –

Thank you for contacting me about this important subject. Increased investment in cycling would help us address health and environmental issues. It is affordable, and without a significant increase in funding for cycling and walking, the Government will be unable to meet its obligations under our world leading climate change legislation.

I wholeheartedly share your desire to see the Scottish Government spend a substantial proportion of the £279 million allocated for capital spending in the recent UK budget on improvements to cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure. When the Danish Cycling Embassy visited the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, I asked what steps were taken to achieve the high number of commuting cyclists in Copenhagen where almost 40% of citizens cycle to work and education. In response the Cycling Embassy representative said that investment in a project that clearly demonstrated the many benefits of a segregated cycle way was key. With this in mind, I along with fellow members of the Cross Party Group on Cycling, Jim Eadie MSP and Claudia Beamish MSP, wrote to Keith Brown outlining a proposal for introducing a competitive award for an urban on-road segregated cycle lane project design. In Mr Brown’s response (attached) he reiterates his pledge to make a strong bid for cycling infrastructure funding should more money become available. Now that more money has become available, I intend to do everything I can to ensure he honours this commitment. It is vital that the Scottish Government delivers the levels of funding required to encourage people to take the affordable, active and environmentally friendly option of cycling in the Lothian Region and across Scotland.

Please be assured that I will continue to push the Scottish government at every available opportunity for more funding for cycling, and to target the funding at the projects that will have the most positive impact on cycling in Scotland.

Best wishes

Alison Johnstone (Green)
———————–

Next Reply –

Dear Kim

Thank you for writing again following the UK Government’s recent budget and the allocation of new money to Scotland for capital projects.

I well appreciate your support for further investment in active travel, particularly cycling and I am happy to draw your comments, as well as those of others who would also like to see the Scottish Government focus more on cycling infrastructure rather than road spending.

I will be back in touch when I have a reply from Keith Brown MSP as the current Transport Minister but if there is anything else that I can do for you, in the meantime, as your Regional representative in the Scottish Parliament then just let me know.

Again, with all best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour)
———————–

A further update from Sarah Boyack, with a reply from the Minister for Transport Keith Brown –

Dear Kim

Keith Brown MSP has replied to me arising from your concerns about the Scottish Government’s opportunity to provide more investment toward cycling infrastructure. His response, as Transport Minister, as you will see unfortunately does not provide any additional resources to enhance the cycling experience all over the country, even though its benefits to the nation’s health and environment are well-known.

I am sorry that the Scottish Government was not minded to prioritise cycling for additional resources within its augmented spending capabilities but I thought that you ought to see the terms of the official response nevertheless, given your interest in the issue.

As ever, with very best wishes to you.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour)

And the reply to Sarah from the Minister:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your letter of 26 March on behalf of a number of constituents, regarding additional spending on cycling infrastructure as a result of the UK Chancellor’s spring budget.

The Scottish Government is to receive additional funding for capital projects as a result of the UK Government’s spring budget. However, as the additional capital is for financial transactions (i.e. loans and equity investment), which must be repaid, we are severely restricted in the use of this money.

Investment in cycling is paramount if we are to increase the numbers of people using bikes and realise our shared vision of 10% of all journeys being made by bike by 2020. Over this Spending Review, this Scottish Government will invest almost £58 million on infrastructure, training and road safety projects through Sustrans, Cycling Scotland and local authorities. I hope these commitments reassure your constituents that this Scottish Government is committed to investing in cycling infrastructure to make Scotland an active and safe cycling nation.

Kind regards

Keith Brown MSP (SNP)
—–

A reminder that Pedal on Parliament 2 is on the 19th May, meet at 15:00 on the Meadows, the more people who join this protest ride, the louder our voice calling for change will be.

Changing times for the Cycling Tourism

Changing times for the Cycling Tourism

Five years ago I wrote a post about cycle touring is now fashionable and since that time I have undertake a fair bit of cycling tourism my self (as you will realise from reading this blog). So I was pleased to see today a report from the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) on Changing times for the Cycling Tourism showing that it’s a real bread winner for local economies across the EU. Here in the UK we are increasingly seeing workshops run for those in the tourism sector on the benefits of cycle tourism and highlight potential of mountain biking tourism.

Even previously staid Tourist Boards jumping on the bandwagon all being under the label of “Adventure and Outdoor Sports Holidays“, which just shows they haven’t really done their market research very thoroughly, as according to some market analysis, the average age of cycle tourers is between 45-55 years. Also in resent year there has also be an increase in the number of family groups showing an interest in cycle touring holidays.

There is some evidence that policy makers have taken this on board and while initiatives such as the Scottish Borders Recreational Cycling Group securing £175,000 in funding are to be welcomed, there is a very real need for a more broad based approach. We need a long term cultural change which sees the bicycle as a legitimate form of transport, not just a sporting toy. There is much to be gained and nothing to lose, so what is holding us back, we have the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland all we have to do is implement it!

Addendum:

The ECF have issued another new report which estimates the value to local economies across Europe of cycle tourism on the Trans-European Cycling Network (which includes route in Britain and Ireland) to be €5 billion annually, and that doesn’t include the smaller local cycle routes (or Lands End-John O’ Groats).

Manifesto suggestions for active travel revisited

Manifesto suggestions for active travel revisited

With the Scottish elections coming up in May, I thought I would revamp my manifesto suggestions for active travel.

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, it can boost local economic activity, 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). So, with a general election looming, I thought I would make a few suggestions, which the political parties might like to adopt for their Manifestos for the coming Holyrood elections with regard to active travel.

First off, what is active travel? Well, at its simplest it is making short journeys by active means, such as walking or cycling. So how do we encourage active travel, here is a proposal from an unexpected source:

 

  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities
  • Go beyond minimum design standards
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
  • Improve non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects

Now these might sound like the sort of policies you would get from a liberal neo-socialist European country (or Enrique Peñalosa in Bogotá), but just look at the spellings, this was cut and pasted from the official blog of the US Secretary of Transportation. If the Americans can do it, why can’t we?

So here are a few other suggestions:

Strict liability. As I have pointed out elsewhere on this blog, this is an issue which the Scottish Parliament can and should legislate on.

Reduce speed limits in built up areas from 30 mph to 20 mph, throughout all built up areas. People living in built up areas want to feel safe on the streets. One of the major reasons for people not feeling safe when walking or cycling is the speed of traffic in areas with busy roads. The thing with 20 mph zones is that not only do people feel safer, they are safer. There is a wealth of data on the effects of these lower speed limits, studies have shown that introductions of 20 mph zones are associated with a reduction in road casualties of up to 42%.

Enforce the speed limits. Drivers who speed are more likely to be involved in collisions, and they are also more likely to commit other driving violations, such as red-light running and driving too close to the vehicle in front. A DfT 2007 Speed Survey showed that on 30 mph roads, 49% of car drivers exceed 30 mph and 19% exceed 35 mph. Tougher enforcement of the existing traffic laws would also help, currently the police are reluctant to prosecute drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, unless they are travelling in excess of 40 mph. This is a major reason for people not feeling safe when walking or cycling in areas with busy roads. This is creeping on to the political agenda in Scotland, but all too slowly.

Cycle training. There is an excellent training programme available for all school children in Scotland, but less than half of Scotland’s school children get the training. Cycle training to at least National Standard Level 2 (Basic on road skills) and preferably to Level 3 (Advanced roads skills) should be part of the school curriculum, this is an import life skill, not just a leisure activity like golf.

A tax car on parking spaces. Over the last twenty years is there has been significant growth of retail parks and shopping malls, these use large car parks and have greatly increased levels of traffic congestion, while at the same time strangling the life out of small High Street retailers. One way to redress the balance would be to tax car parking spaces. This could also be applied to workplace car parking to discourage commuting by car and again reduce congestion.

Encourage the provision of cycle parking. This could provide real economic benefit, an Australian study has shown each square metre of space allocated to cars contributed A$6 per hour in expenditure, whereas each square metre of space allocated to bicycles brought in five times as much (A$31 per hour). A significant element is that a bicycle take up 12% of the space used by a car, therefore, one car parking space can be used by 8 bikes. So it can be seen that replacing car parking with bicycle parking makes economic sense as part of a parking management plan.

Even the Westminster government has recognised that pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users provide as much if not more spending power than car users in town centres. However, there is a consistent misinterpretation by traders that the majority of their customers arrive by car, and this is not just a UK phenomenon. In Graz, Austria, traders reported that 58% of customers arrived by car when objective data showed that this was 32%, while 68% arrived by sustainable travel modes and yet traders believed just 42% did so. Surveys in Edinburgh, Bristol, and Leicester have shown similar results.

To encourage the provision of cycle parking, rebates and grants could be given for providing secure covered cycle parking within 50m of the front entrance to buildings. Also, to introduce a planning requirement that all new developments should have to provide secure covered cycle parking within 50m of the main entrance to the building, at a minimum rate of one bicycle space per 500 m2 of floor area for commercial offices, and one bicycle space per 900 m2 of floor area for retail and most other commercial uses. Of course people also need secure bicycle storage at home, and this should be encouraged.

Require planners to count pedestrians and cyclists when they carry out traffic surveys, by law. Every traffic planner in the country can tell you how many motor vehicles there are on the roads in their area, but few (if any) can tell you how many cyclists and pedestrians use the same routes. How can you plan for non-motorised traffic if you don’t know how many people are travelling by these means?

Commit a minimum of 5% of the transport budget to be spent on active travel. Let’s face it, 5% isn’t a big ask, the return on investment from active travel infrastructure is far higher than for other forms of transport, by as much as 20:1! This is far greater than the return on investment from providing infrastructure for electric cars. However, currently less than 2% of the total transport budget is spent on active travel, and yet we are all pedestrians at some time in the day. No one can drive absolutely everywhere, no matter how much some people might want to…!

Introduce a lifetime driving ban for drivers who kill, without exception. Currently drivers who cause death by dangerous driving are given a five year ban, starting from the date of sentence (this runs concurrently with any prison term). Drivers who kill, but are convicted of lesser offences, often leave court with little more than a fine and six penalty points on their licence. Anyone causing the death of another by means other than driving can normally expect a substantial prison term, so why are we so lenient with drivers?

Give people back their travel choices, help them to choose active travel, for a longer, healthier, and happier life!

Manifesto suggestions for active travel

Manifesto suggestions for active travel

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). So, with a general election looming, I thought I would make a few suggestions, which the political parties might like to adopt for their Manifestos with regard to active travel.

First off, what is active travel? Well, at its simplest it is making short journeys by active means, such as walking or cycling. So how do we encourage active travel, here is a proposal from an unexpected source:

  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities
  • Go beyond minimum design standards
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
  • Improve non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects

Now these might sound like the sort of policies you would get from a liberal neo-socialist European country, but just look at the spellings, this was cut and pasted from the official blog of the US Secretary of Transportation. If the Americans can do it, why can’t we?

Here are a few more suggestions:

Strict liability, this is common in most western European countries, in fact the UK is one of only five countries which does not have a law of strict liability, the other four are: Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Romania. The principle is simple, the person who is in charge of the heavier vehicle should be presumed liable in a crash. For example, if a lorry was in a collision with a car, the lorry driver would have to take the greater responsibility. So where the driver/rider of a motor vehicle is involved in a crash with a cyclist or pedestrian, the motorist would be presumed liable. This is not always popular with motorists, there are people who are not willing to take responsibility for their actions, but this is why we need to enshrine strict liability in law. The other objection which is often given by motorists is that this would lead to cyclists and pedestrians deliberately running into motor vehicles in order to claim compensation. This seems unlikely, but where the motorist could prove the cyclist or pedestrian was at fault, i.e., if the motor vehicle was stationary and a cyclist ran into the back of it, then the motorist would not be liable (as is currently the case for crashes between motorists).

Reduce speed limits in built up areas from 30 mph to 20 mph, not just around schools, but throughout all built up areas. This would make the streets safer for everyone, as around two-thirds of crashes in which people are killed or injured occur on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph. According to RoSPA the probability of serious injury to a person wearing a seat belt in a front seat at an impact speed of 30 mph is three times greater than at 20mph. At 40 mph it is over five times greater. Impacts at higher speeds are more severe than at lower speeds, and so lead to more serious injuries. At 35 mph a driver is twice as likely to kill someone as they are at 30mph.

It is sobering to realise that:

  • Hit by a car at 20 mph, 3% of pedestrians will be killed – 97% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 30 mph, 20% of pedestrians will be killed – 80% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 35 mph, 50% of pedestrians will be killed – 50% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 40 mph, 90% of pedestrians will be killed – 10% will survive.

Added to this, drivers who speed are more likely to be involved in collisions, and they are also more likely to commit other driving violations, such as red-light running and driving too close to the vehicle in front. A DfT 2007 Speed Survey showed that on 30 mph roads, 49% of car drivers exceed 30 mph and 19% exceed 35 mph. Tougher enforcement of the existing traffic laws would also help, currently the police are reluctant to prosecute drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, unless they are travelling in excess of 40 mph. This is a major reason for people not feeling safe when walking or cycling in areas with busy roads. [Update: this is now creeping on to the political agenda in Scotland, all be it slowly.]

Cycle training. All school children should have cycle training to at least National Standard Level 2 (Basic on road skills) and preferably to Level 3 (Advanced roads skills). In addition, training needs to be made available to adults, there is a “lost generation” of adults who have received no cycle training and who don’t understand that the correct place to ride is on the road rather than the pavement, and that the rules of the road apply to them too.

Scrap Vehicle Excise Duty, and instead raise the tax revenue by increasing fuel duties and tax on car sales. This would discourage the excessive driving which has become the norm. People choose to drive short distances rather than walking or cycling because driving is relatively cheap. According to the RAC, in real terms it is 24% cheaper to buy a car and 57% cheaper to run a car now than it was 20 years ago! At the same time the cost of public transport has risen significantly. Overall, tax incentives are pushing people towards driving rather than using other forms of transport.

Reduce VAT on bicycles, the car scrappage scheme was used to encourage the sale of new cars (which helped to lift France and Germany out of recession), why shouldn’t there be an extra incentive to encourage people to buy bicycles?

Tax car parking spaces, another change over the last twenty years is the growth of retail parks and shopping malls. These use large car parks and generate significant traffic congestion, while at the same time strangling small High Street retailers. One way to redress the balance would be to tax car parking spaces. This could also be applied to workplace car parking to discourage commuting by car and so reduce congestion. Rebates and grants could be given for providing secure covered cycle parking within 50m of the front entrance to the building. As a planning requirement, all new developments should have to provide secure covered cycle parking within 50m of the main entrance to the building, at a minimum rate of one bicycle space per 500 m2 of floor area for commercial offices, and one bicycle space per 900 m2 of floor area for retail and most other commercial uses.

Require planners to count pedestrians and cyclists when they carry out traffic surveys, by law. Every traffic planner in the country can tell you how many motor vehicles there are on the roads in their area, but few (if any) can tell you how many cyclist and pedestrians use the same routes. How can you plan for non-motorised traffic if you don’t know how many people are travelling by these means?

Commit a minimum of 5% of the transport budget to be spent on active travel. Currently less than 2% of the total transport budget is spent on active travel, and yet we are all pedestrians at some time in the day. No one can drive absolutely everywhere, no matter how much some people might want to…!

A lifetime driving ban for drivers who kill, without exception. Currently drivers who cause death by dangerous driving are given a five year ban, starting from the date of sentence (this runs concurrently with any prison term). Drivers who kill, but are convicted of lesser offences, often leave court with little more than a fine and six penalty points on their licence. Anyone causing the death of another by means other than driving can normally expect a substantial prison term, so why are we so lenient with drivers?

Lets give people back their travel choices, lets help them to choose active travel, for a longer, healthier, and happier life!

You don’t pay tax…

You don’t pay tax…

One of the more stupid statements made by motorists to cyclists is “you don’t pay tax”, sadly this is just not true. We all pay tax, as the old axiom has it: there are two things in life which are unavoidable, death and taxes. However, when challenged on this point, they go on to say that they alone pay something called “road tax”, and that the payment of this gives them a greater right to use the roads than anyone else. Again this is not true, here in the UK there is no such thing as “road tax”, there used to be a form of tax called the “Road Fund Licence”, but as I have pointed out elsewhere, this was abolished in 1936! We all pay for the roads through our taxes, so effectively we all pay “road tax”. Despite this, there is a widespread perception among motorists that they are somehow unfairly taxed, unlike those free loading cyclists and pedestrians who dare to use their roads.

So just how true is this perception that motorists are so unfairly taxed? Well in the financial year 2006-07 £28.43bn was raised from taxes on fuel and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). In the same year around £8.78bn went toward maintenance and £11.91bn new road building, but that is not the whole story. The cost of policing the roads and the expense incurred by the judicial system has been estimated to be £3bn. Also, the cost to the NHS of injuries due to road accidents crashes, according to figures from collated by RoSPA, was £9.93bn. So the total cost to government was £33.62bn, meaning there was a short fall of £5.19bn, which had to be covered from other non-motoring related taxation.

In addition there is the cost to businesses and other drivers due to delays caused by congestion, estimated by those rampant greens, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), to be about £19.1bn.

Even this does not cover the whole cost of motoring to the nation as a whole, there are a large raft of hidden costs borne by all UK tax payers, these include –

  • Noise pollution: in the form of lowered house prices, spoilt semi-natural areas, ill-health and disturbed sleep, estimated to cost £3.1bn. One case study was based on over 3500 property sales in Glasgow, suggested that property prices were depressed by 0.20% for each decibel increase in road noise. (also see Roads: traffic noise)
  • Air pollution (not including CO2): estimated to be between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year and this is likely to be an under-estimate! [Update: A conservative estimate for one type of air pollution (particulates) is that it reduces average life expectancy in the UK by around six months, worth £16 billion a year. DEFRA 2015] When looking at the costs associated with global warming, the figures are more difficult to pin down, but have the potential to dwarf our entire economic system. Transport contributes about 23% of UK domestic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and road transport is responsible for 93% of this.
  • Water pollution: in the form of run-off into rivers and drainage of leaking oil, break fluid, exhaust and soot from vehicles, rubber particulates from tyres and salt used in winter. Again estimated costs are uncertain, but are somewhere between £1bn and £16bn per year.
  • Costs to health due to lack of exercise: the British population is one of the fattest in Europe. The direct cost of obesity to the NHS is £0.5bn per year, the indirect health impacts of physical inactivity, estimated to be £10.7 billion per annum, and on top of that the indirect cost to the UK economy is at least £2bn per year.
  • Insurance: Car insurance is a competitive business. Figures released by the Association of British Insurers show that the payouts to road users were not covered by their premiums. The average shortfall for the five years from 1988 to 1992 was £626 million per year. In other words, insurance companies are charging more on other kinds of insurance to subsidise motorists.
  • The cost of repairing pavements damaged by illegal parking: this has been estimated to cost in the region of £234m a year and that does not include the cost of policing, installing bollards and other devices to stop vehicles parking illegally or the cost of compensation claims for trips and falls caused by this damage.

The simple inconvenient fact is that it is 18% cheaper to run a car now than twenty years ago. This shows that “the motorist”, far from being unfairly taxed, is being heavily subsidised by the non-motoring tax payers. So it is motorists that are the free loaders on Britain’s roads, not the long suffering cyclists and pedestrians.

Now I really must get back to filling out my tax return, if only I could get a rebate for not owning a car …

Cycle helmets

Cycle helmets

There was a thread on a cycling forum recently on how often a cycle helmet needs to be replaced. The person who starting the thread wrote that his helmet was now three years old and still in perfect condition but the manufacture recommends that cycle helmets should be replaced every three years. There was a sentiment expressed that this was a marketing ploy by the manufacturer to sell more helmets. This set me wondering about peoples understanding of the safety of using helmets and their motivations for wearing them.

Conversations with colleges at work show that at least one had suffered injury directly as a result of wearing a cycle helmet. The helmet was not properly fastened and a glancing blow caused the helmet to twist on his head leaving him with a gash across the forehead. He was of the opinion that had he not been wearing a helmet he would not have been as badly injured and consequently he no longer wears a helmet when cycling. One cycling expert has stated that apart from racing cyclists either off or on road, he, hardly ever sees a cycle helmet being worn properly. Research has also shown that a badly fitted cycle helmet can double your chances of a head injury in the event of a crash.

Do cycle helmets actually increase cycle safety anyway? This is rather a contentious question…

The manufacture and sale of cycle helmets is a highly profitable multi-billion pound international business, dominated by a few large companies. These companies have given money to campaigning organisations that seek to boost helmet use and introduce legislation. In Europe, industry campaigns to boost helmet sales in countries where helmet use is low (such as The Netherlands and Denmark) have been driven by purely commercial considerations. The claims made by helmet manufacturers for their products are very modest compared with those made by lobby groups and they do not claim that a helmet will protect from death. However, the industry has been active in promulgating the results of pro-helmet research by others, even where this predicts benefits from helmet use well in excess of what manufacturers feel able to justify.

As John Franklin, the author of “Cyclecraft”, concludes: “Although there has been much research into cycle helmets, too much of this is suspect with regard to assumptions made and control groups used. It does not relate well to real-world circumstances. Most research has been predictive in nature and based on small samples. Little has looked at the results that have actually been achieved in large population samples when helmet use has increased significantly. No research has put the risk of head injury when cycling into perspective with the risk from other common activities and the overall effect on life expectancy and health.

It seems reasonable to expect that reductions in injuries brought about through the wearing of cycle helmets would be reflected in the general accident statistics in places where helmet use has become significant. This should particularly be the case if the more optimistic predictions for injury reduction are correct. However, whole population statistics from Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada show no distinguishable change in fatalities, and statistics for London show no such change for any severity of injury, as helmet use has increased substantially.

This suggests that the real-world performance of cycle helmets may be falling well short of the predictions that have been made.”

David Jamieson the former Minister for Transport, acknowledged in 2004 when the UK Government considered introducing a law to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory, that the Government knows of no case where cyclist safety has improved with increasing helmet use. The Government abandoned it is plans for this law after failing to find a single cycling organisation which was prepared to back such a law. Even the NHS has produced evidence the compulsory use of cycle helmets has a negative effect on health of the wider population. Four papers, published in UK in 2005, found little evidence of helmet effectiveness. Indeed there is evidence the wearing a cycle helmet increases the risk of neck injury if you are struck by a motor vehicle (Rivara et al. 1997).

The more I look to this question, the more the evidence convinces me that cycle helmets are a waste of money and do very little, if anything, to increase cycle safety. If, however, you do want to use a helmet then it is best to get one that conforms the highest standard, a list can be found here. They may cost a wee bit more but then it again are you going to wear it for safety or as a fashion statement?

I would just like to give the final words to Laurence Howman writing in the British Medical Journal “Sirs I worked as a Health Care Worker for 24 years at the Local Hospital. 4+ years of that Time was spend on the Neurological Ward. So I had to deal with many Head Injury Patients. It may be of interest to those who promoted the use of Cycle Helmets that During that 4+ years I can’t recall any of the Patients who was a Cyclist. I believe it about time that those studying Cycle Accidents take a look at the Neuro Wards and not the Emergency Wards. It is the Neuro Wards where the really head injuries come. I bet they may just change their tune. You could also look at the Heart and Stroke Wards too because Cyclist don’t turn up there much either”.

Let there be light

Let there be light

We recently had a new bathroom fitted and as it is an internal room lighting is important. When we first moved, in the old bathroom gave a good impression of the Black Hole of Calcutta (well more like the green and blue hole of Calcutta, an interesting colour scheme), lit by a single 40w tungsten bulb. On the first day, all the old tungsten bulbs where removed and replaced with modern low energy bulbs. In the bathroom I put in a 14w, which has a light output equivalent to a 75w tungsten bulb, a considerable improvement straight away.

Putting in a new bathroom gave the opportunity to make more radical changes. My first thought was to use halogen down lighters and flood the room with light, however there are a few issue with halogen down lighters. First off, care must been taken when fitting them into an existing ceiling, as they can be a fire risk due to the heat they generate. Secondly, all that heat is just wasted energy, with most of the energy being converted into heat rather than light. While halogen bulbs while they are more energy efficient than Edison incandescent bulbs, they are still not the most efficient means of lighting. The search was on for energy efficient replacements for the standard GU10 halogen bulb.

Most people are now aware of low energy (compact fluorescent lamps or CFL) bulbs, even if not everybody is using them. There are now CFLs which can be used to replace the old fashioned tungsten GU10 bulbs (GU10 refers to the type of fitting). They are at the present time more expensive (£5 to £6 per bulb) than the halogens they replace (£0.79 per bulb), but the CFs use less energy and last longer, but more on that later.

However I wasn’t convinced this was the most energy efficient solution. Through my interest in cycling I knew that in high end cycle lights halogen bulbs have now been entirely replaced by LED lights. Indeed the popularity of 24 hour cycle racing, where the race continues through the night (at the extreme is the Strathpuffer with 17 hours of darkness), have helped to drive development in this area, as bright and energy efficient lights are important to this sport. If you are hurtling down a forest track in the dark, you want plenty of light to find your way. Yet at the same time you don’t want to be lugging a heavy battery about, so low energy consumption is essential. The German light makers Lupine show just what can be done with their Betty 14, a 1500 lumen 22w light which can run for 6 hours on a 14.5 Ah Li-Ion bottle battery. The whole setup only weighs 810g. Ok, so it comes at a price (£685.00, just in case you want to know what I would like for Christmas) and a 1500 lumen lamp is way more brightness that the average domestic lighting system would normally use, but has any of this high end technology filtered its way down to the domestic lighting market?

Well yes it has, you can get LED lights as replacements for halogen bulbs, but there are a few differences in what is required from a bike light compared with domestic room lighting. As stated above, top end bike lights are far brighter than domestic lighting systems, also there is the colour of the light to be taken into account. As light colour and temperature can be a wee bit confusing, here is a short digression into light colour/temperature.

A lighting designer will describe white light as being cold or warm depending on whether it is towards the yellow end of the spectrum or the blue end, with yellow being warm and blue cold. On the other hand, a lighting engineer will describe white light according to its temperature in degrees Kelvin (°K), to them a “warm white” light has a temperature of 2700°K and the “cold white” a temperature of 5000°K. So why the difference? The designer gives a subjective description of the light, and we have become accustomed to the yellowish white light of the tungsten bulb in most domestic lighting situations. Before that we would have experienced the light of oil lamps or candles, which have a similar coloured light. This light is described as being warm. Whereas white light which is to the blue end of the spectrum, and is closer in colour to that of daylight, is regarded as harsh and cold. The engineer on the other hand describes light according to the level of energy required to generate it. For millennia metal workers have known that if you heat a piece of metal it will start to glow, at first red, then as you heat further straw yellow and eventually it will become white hot. At this point metals start to melt, and if you are using arc welding gear to melt the metal, you will notice that the electrical sparks give out a blue light as they are hotter still. The temperatures at which these colours are produced can be measured, hence colour temperature is given in °K. Ok so back to the subject at hand.

Most bike lights produce a “cold” white light with a temperature of about 5000°K, this is often considered too harsh and cold for use in a living area. So for domestic use there are GU10 LED lights which can replace the bog standard halogen down lighter, these usually come as a choice of either warm white (3200°K) or cool light (5000°K). Power usage ranges from 1w to 4.3w and their light output can be equivalent to 35w to 50w halogen blubs (specifications can vary between manufactures). As this is in many ways still a cutting edge technology, prices are on the high side at between £6 and £18 a bulb.

So to the big question, is it worth spending £18 on a bulb when you can get a halogen bulb for £0.79 to do the same thing? The answer depends on the time scale you look at and how much you use it, to find out it is necessary to carry out a little economic analysis. To do this I, have developed a simple tool to compare the energy usage and running cost of three different types of downlighter type lights.

Basically halogens are cheap to buy but use a lot of expensive energy and have a short lifespan (typically about 2000 hrs). Whereas LEDs are expensive to buy, but use very little energy and have a very long lifespan (typically about 50000 hrs), CFLs are somewhere in between. To see which is the better value in the longer term I chose the following scenario, using four bulb fitting, for four hours a day (OK so that is a wee bit longer that we normally use the bathroom per day) using electricity at a costing of £0.18 per kWh (a rate taken from an old bill, before the recent price hike!), what would be the total running cost per year? In the first year the total cost of the halogens would be £39.10, using CFLs would be £12.96 and using LEDs would be £4.90. This suggest that saving in energy costs of using the LEDs would repay the capital investment is a little over two years. However at the current time the cost of energy is going up and the cost LEDs is coming down, so this could soon be even shorter!

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
%d bloggers like this: