“Get Britain Cycling”

Below is our submission to the APPCG’s enquiry:

apcg_header

   CONTENTS:

Foreword                                                  Page 1

Introduction: The Issue                             Page 1

MAIN TOPICS                                          Page 2

Monitoring                                                Page 2

Political Leadership                                  Page 3

Funding                                                    Page 3

The safety question                                  Page 4

Traffic Law and Enforcement                   Page 5

Highways and off-road infrastructure       Page 5

Goods vehicles and professional drivers Page 5

Cycle Training                                       Page 6

Abuse and negative attitudes                   Page 6                                                                               .                                                                                             

Foreword: The Road Danger Reduction Forum www.rdrf.org.uk was formed in 1993 to promote the idea that the civilised approach to safety on the road is to reduce danger on the road at source, namely from inappropriate use of motor vehicles, as part of the promotion of a sustainable transport policy. Support for RDRF is from local authorities that have signed the Road Danger Reduction Charter and bodies representing cyclists, pedestrians and proponents of road danger reduction. Supporting cycling has been a key plank of the programme of the RDRF.

Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRF 2nd December 2012 CONTACT: chairrdrf@aol.com

INTRODUCTION: The Issue

The arguments for cycling as an everyday mode of transport have been known for some time. While some – health, climate change – have come to the fore more recently, arguments about congestion reduction, relatively low danger to other road users, energy consumption, noise and noxious emissions have been voiced for some time.

On the positive side, there has been a very significant increase in cycling in London over the last decade, and this has been accompanied by a significant decline in Killed and Seriously Injured casualties per cyclist mile travelled there. However, London and the rest of the UK have a very low modal share compared to similar cities in northern Europe, and issues such as danger to cyclists have not been properly addressed.

Regrettably, a consequence of having a low modal share of cycling for over 50 years is that there is all too often a general, mainly (but not always) unwitting, cultural prejudice against cycling. This exists throughout mainstream culture, and also government and other agencies responsible for transport and related issues.

In effect cycling is discriminated against as a form of transport in a variety of ways, from inadequate financial support compared to other modes, through to inadequate approaches to reduce danger to cyclists. This negative culture also includes excessive social acceptance of publicly stated abuse of cyclists.

We consider the main specific topics (based roughly on your list) which need to be addressed below. In order to facilitate your enquiry we keep these comments very brief. We are available to comment on them in more detail in person.

MAIN TOPICS

Monitoring: There is a generally poor level of monitoring of cycling. In London there are superior levels of data compared to other areas, but still require a step change in quantity and quality of information. There are two serious problems here:

  1. We are unable to present casualty data in terms of casualties per journey or distance travelled – the minimum level of information required to get a true picture of cyclist safety – which requires that reasonable information on the amount of cycling being done.
  2. We are unable to assess what measures are effective in supporting cycling unless we know how levels of cycling have changed.

Local authorities should present available data, segmentation analyses etc. as part of a monitoring programme which will include the installation of additional fixed cycle counters. It may not be necessary to have in-depth monitoring throughout the UK, but intensive and extensive study of typical must be supported by the DfT to achieve monitoring as a critically necessary part of transport policy.

Political leadership: Given the negative aspects of the dominant culture referred to in the Introduction, it is vital to have clear and unambiguous formal commitment from officers and politicians at the head of decision-making bodies. The nature of bureaucracies is to persist with traditional ways of thinking even when change is required.

For example, councils in London have recently been given clear guidance from Transport for London about their use of large goods vehicles. Yet, while some officers and Councillors have shown clear commitment towards securing driver training in cyclist awareness and other measures to reduce danger from lorries towards cyclists, very little positive has actually been achieved so far.

In order to free up blockages in the system it will be necessary to have clear and unambiguous leadership from Council leaders and Chief Executives. Targets and objectives will have to be regularly and independently monitored.

We believe that ultimately achieving the necessary objectives will require principal funders to make funding to councils, and other bodies responsible for cycling conditions, dependent on successful progress. While central Government is not legally entitled to dictate the policies of councils, it is entitled to restrict the amount and nature of funding for local government, such as Local Implementation Plans in London. Unless local authorities are required to act in ways which properly support cycling – including not discriminating against it or making it more hazardous – there is little prospect of adequate support for cycling.

Funding: As explained in “Political Leadership” above, funding should be conditional on councils pursuing appropriate policies. In the same way, funding should be allocated in far greater amounts to those councils pursuing pro-cycling policies. Funding should be based on:

  1. A far greater amount allocated. This is based on comparison with subsidy to public transport use, the level of subsidy per head in the Netherlands, and consideration of the external costs of motoring. Of these, the most obvious comparison is with bus, tube and train subsidy in London. Given the relatively higher sustainability of cycling and its health benefits, a figure of some £300 per typical daily cyclist per year is entirely reasonable as an absolute minimum. Other amounts are 1 – 2% of the annual TfL budget, or approximately £70 – 140 million per annum in London, and at least some £700 million to £1 billion nationwide ( it is likely that fewer people ill cycle in rural areas, but conditions  on rural roads may be so hostile that , if anything, additional amount s may be required)
  2. 2.     Allocation to schemes with proven records of achieving modal shift to cycling and greater convenience and safety to cyclists. At present we doubt that much of what passes for highway infrastructure changes financed through government funding, or some of the cycle training carried out, actually achieve this. By contrast, we believe that schemes like the following achieve good value for money in the necessary respects, such as 2012 National Transport Award winner LB Ealing for its Direct Support for Cycling programme

 

The safety question

The safety question – a paradox: We believe there is an apparent, but not actual, contradiction at work here.

On the one hand, cyclists are at risk from a wide variety of law- and rule-breaking behaviour by motorised road users. Much of this has been exacerbated by accommodating these behaviours in traditional forms of highway design and also motor vehicle design. This kind of danger should be seen as simply intolerable and unacceptable. This should be based not just on the fact that people are dissuaded from cycling by danger – although this does occur – but because it is simply wrong: the behaviours concerned are often illegal and frequently endanger other road users as well.

On the other hand, it is important to stress that cyclists in the UK, and particularly in urban areas,  have very low chances of being seriously injured, and even lower ones of being killed. Overemphasising the chances of being hurt distorts the picture of cycling, not least in inhibiting people who wish to cycle from doing so – denying them health benefits due to fear of danger. A feature of an anti-cycling culture is the persistent tendency to see cycling as “the problem”. Part of this is the “dangerising” of cycling, seeing it as an activity which is inherently hazardous, particularly if there are any motor vehicles anywhere nearby.

It is absolutely central to any successful strategy that this state of affairs is seen as the paradox it is. Cycling, particularly in the areas where there is a lot of cycling already, should be seen as the low-risk activity it is. This should not, however, detract from promoting a step change in reducing danger to cyclists from motor vehicular traffic, by whatever means – law enforcement and sentencing, training, highway and infrastructure engineering – are necessary.

The safety question – Safety in Numbers (SiN): We think that the experience of London, with a dramatic reduction in cyclist KSIs per journey in the last decade, shows that change has been achieved through SiN. For example, approximately the same number of cyclists is killed in collisions with lorries, with at least a doubling of the amount of cycling in the areas where most deaths occur, and an increase in lorry use. Denying this mechanism denies an important positive step forward, and unnecessarily dissuades people from cycling: stopping them from cycling can have a deleterious effect not just on their health but on the safety of other cyclists. However:

(a)   This does not mean that SiN on its own will deliver enough of a  decline in danger

(b)   SiN is particularly unlikely to be effective on roads with very few cyclists and high speed limits, as well as with particularly incompetent drivers or drivers unwilling to drive properly.

(c)   Those responsible for danger – whether highway authorities, individual motorists, motor manufacturers or others – should still be held accountable. Danger should be seen as unacceptable whether or not a collision occurs.

The safety question – measuring danger: An aggregate measure of cyclist casualties or casualties per head of the population is at best useless, and at worst misleading. The measures to be used are:

  1. 1.     Cyclist KSIs per journey or distance travelled – this is the minimum acceptable measure.
  2. 2.     Ideally this measure should be refined to consider the proportion of cases where a third party is at fault – there is a qualitative difference between cases where this happens (e.g.  the result of careless driving) and where a cyclist is clearly at fault (e.g. being intoxicated and falling off a bicycle)
  3. 3.     Objective measures of danger. Some locations, such as multi-lane junctions with high-speed motor traffic, have obvious high levels of hazard. These locations can be assessed by measures such as the Cycle Skills Network Audit, where locations are assessed in terms of the level of Bikeability skills required to cycle there.

 

Traffic law and enforcement: This is the key element missing from cycle safety strategies such as The Times campaign. There should be a massive increase in the amount of law enforcement, focusing on behaviours that lead to predominant causes of cyclist KSIs: Overly close overtaking; careless opening of car doors, not watching out for cyclists in general and at junctions in particular, and generally poor standards of driving. Most collisions involve typical motorists, rather than the minority of extremely bad drivers, although enforcement should also be applied here, backed up by deterrent sentencing.

While misbehaviour by cyclists, such as failing to obey traffic signals, should be addressed, enforcement should focus on behaviours most likely to endanger others – namely from rule- and law-breaking motoring – which will be of general benefit to the safety of all road users.

Although we do not have the space to describe the moral and legal basis for this here, it will be necessary to consider stricter liability for motorists involved in collisions with cyclists and with pedestrians, to back up law enforcement.

 

Highways and off-road infrastructure. It is likely that most cycling will continue to be in proximity to motorists on the public highway, who should expect cyclists to be sharing the road with them. However, some features such as one-way gyratory systems and roundabouts and inherently inimical to cycling safety.  The aim should be to remove such features of the highway environment, or at least to provide safe and convenient alternatives for cyclists in those areas. Reduction of motor vehicular capacity of the network  in such situations is fully justified, if it is the only way to reduce danger to cyclists and support cycling.

 

Goods vehicles and professional drivers. This area shows how a combination of cyclist SiN and pressure on a group of motorists can result in reduction of the chances of cyclists being hurt or killed. However, this process needs to be accelerated by

  • Retro-fitting design features on lorries which reduce the chances of cyclists and pedestrians going between the lorry body and tarmac. Such devices have not yet been properly considered.
  • Installing infra-red or other sensors as the best form of technology to allow drivers to be aware of cyclists.
  • Installing cyclist-activated braking systems to sensors to provide real safety.

In the absence of such features it will be necessary to massively increase law enforcement and raise sentences for HGV drivers who break the law.

Ultimately the freight issue, although 50% of cyclist deaths in London (and a large proportion outside) involve lorries, is still a small part of the overall danger to cyclists. The problems ultimately come back to the behaviour of the person in charge of the vehicle posing more of a threat to others, whether a lorry driver, or in most cases the driver of another motor vehicle. Changing their behaviour has proved to be the most effective way of increasing cyclist safety.

 

Cycle Training: RDRF supporter Councils in York, LBs Lambeth and Ealing have been foremost in the “new wave” of cycle training starting in the late 1990s and designed to build cyclist confidence in real world conditions. The right kind of empowering cycle training can, we believe, increase amounts of cycling and reduce cyclist casualty rates through a Safety in Numbers effect. However, we are concerned that much supposed training does not conform to the spirit of National Standards (now “Bikeability”) cycle training and does not create confidence and an awareness of cyclists’ rights as well as responsibilities.

Due to a continuation of the kind of beliefs prevalent under old style “cycle proficiency”, trainees may be presented with dubious ideas about supposed inherent dangers of cycling and incorrect advice about equipment such as hi-viz and cycle helmets.

Abuse and negative attitudes: Rarely regarded as of significance by transport professionals, we believe it is worthwhile examining prejudice and bigotry about, and displayed to, actual or potential cyclists. Negative attitudes among motorists can exacerbate the potential to endanger cyclists or other road users, as well as putting off potential cyclists from cycling.

Negative attitudes to cyclists should be countered. These can include those with regard to “paying road tax”, or the supposed superiority of driving as a transport mode due to motorists having passed a driving test. As with other elements in this programme, there is a need to address more general transport policy issues than just those immediately relating to cycling

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