The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimates around 19,000 cyclists are either killed or injured in collisions with cars on British roads every year: a shocking figure. There is continuous, sometimes acrimonious, debate over who is to blame for these figures – drivers, or the cyclists themselves, but what’s clear is that there is a great deal of work to be done in making our roads safer for cyclists.
The government, and local councils, frequently develop action plans aimed at reducing cycling accidents, many of which have proved successful. Following is a condensed list of some of the best ways to make cycling safer.
One handy piece of kit is camera-monitoring systems, such as those offered by Brigade Electronics. Compatible with most vehicles, they reduce blind spots and offer other significant advantages such as lowering insurance costs, as well as being less susceptible to damage than standard mirrors.
Installing networks of dedicated cycle paths is expensive, and controversial in many built-up areas, but not only does it reduce accidents, it also encourages take-up of a healthy form of transport. One Danish company is trialling click-together modules that can be laid on roads quickly and inexpensively as temporary cycle paths, which can be removed easily when necessary. This could be a good solution, potentially.
Better lighting along dangerous routes, and increasing visibility at junctions which have proved accident black-spots, are also essential.
Speed Reduction Methods
The vast majority of cycling casualties in London occur in 30mph zones, which would indicate that unfortunately many of the vehicles involved, either motor or pedal-powered, are probably going over the speed limit. Traffic calming measures, including speed bumps or cameras, whilst unpopular, are effective.
We already give cycling proficiency tests to children, but greater education for older cyclists and drivers is vital to raise awareness of the dangers involved, and how they can look after themselves and each other. The summer months are a good time to do this, when there are more cyclists on the roads.
During the recent winter months it was common in many cities to see police officers flagging down cyclists not using a helmet or lights, or going on the pavement and down one-way streets, and issuing either fines or advice. Whilst putting all responsibility for collisions on cyclists is obviously unfair, it’s also clear that many cyclists do continue to ride recklessly and must be encouraged to change their ways.
Working with HGV companies to reduce deliveries during peak commuting hours or cut down on lorries that follow popular cycle routes will significantly cut fatalities on the roads, as well as traffic noise and congestion!
It’s tempting, on the daily commute, to listen to music as you travel. Which is fine, if you’re in a bus or train. If you’re on a bike, or a pedestrian of course, it’s not such a good idea, as you can’t hear lorries bearing down on you, or shouts of warning.
Allowing Cycling On Pavements
This is an idea that is currently being looked at, although it’s unlikely to be implemented. Pavement cycling is common in Japan, but there the paths are much wider. It would be much more controversial in the UK – imagine the reaction to cyclists on the pavement along Oxford Street! Nevertheless in some areas it could work.
Elevated Cycling Routes
The architect Sir Norman Foster, a keen cyclist himself, has proposed car-free routes above railway lines in the capital. It has the backing of Boris Johnson and Network Rail, but whether it will come to fruition is up in the air (no pun intended). A scheme such as this, while no doubt attractive, could be extremely costly.
Another controversial suggestion, and one that has not met with much take-up, is introducing cyclists with heavy-duty protective gear. The arguments ranged against the idea include the additional weight slowing cyclists down and being uncomfortable in hot weather, plus the fact that in a showdown with an HGV, even the toughest body armour wouldn’t be very effective.