House of Commons Transport Select Committee Session on Cycling Safety

Along with others such as the CTC we made a submission in January 2013. Here it is:


INTRODUCTION:The Road Danger Reduction Forum 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 safety has been a key plank of the programme of the RDRF.

Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRF 13th January 2014 CONTACT:



·        Cycling is in an inherently safe mode of transport with a low casualty rate. However, there is significant danger from use of motor vehicles towards cyclists – and other road users – which should be properly addressed as a basic requirement of a civilised society.

·        There is a need for a fundamental cultural change towards seeing inappropriate use of motor vehicles towards others as the key problem for cyclists and all other road users – one which has never been properly addressed. Emphasising the relative lack of danger from cyclists towards others – the real “cyclist safety” issue – is key towards doing this.

·        Cycling as a form of basic, inherently safe transport (with a  low casualty rate) engaged in by normal citizens wearing everyday clothing should be supported by whatever means are necessary, including provision of appropriate highway and off-road infrastructure, home cycle parking and accessible accessories etc.

·        Existing road traffic law relating to danger from drivers of all kinds should be massively increased for the good of all road users’ safety. Law and rule infractions should be assessed in terms of their association with the potential to harm others and prioritised accordingly.

·        Law enforcement will require appropriately deterrent sentencing, based primarily of licence endorsement and loss.

·        Highways and off-road environments can be re-engineered to reduce danger towards cyclists. This should be vigorously pursued at locations such as large gyratory systems. However, it should be understood that drivers must expect to be in the vicinity of cyclists on the vast majority of roads and streets, and for their potential danger to be regulated and controlled accordingly.

·        A variety of methods to reduce danger from HGVs can and should be employed, whether engineering the vehicle or its environment. As with everything else, the central issue is a cultural change towards focussing on problems arising from the danger from (inappropriate) motor vehicle use/ Technological changes are of secondary importance to this, and cannot anyway be introduced properly unless this is understood.



2.   Is cycling safe, particularly in towns and cities?


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

2.2.          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.

2.3.          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.

2.4.           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.

2.5.           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.

2.6.           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:

A.    Cyclist KSIs per journey or distance travelled – this is the minimum acceptable measure.

B.    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)

C.    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.

2.7.          Finally, there is an ambiguity in the use of the words “safe” and “dangerous”. We believe that attention should be directed towards dealing with danger at its source – from the inappropriate use of motor vehicles. It should be emphasised that although there is some degree of danger from cycling towards pedestrians and other cyclists, ti is minimal compared to that from motor vehicular traffic.  Cycling, in that sense, is a very safe mode of transport.


3.   What can central and local Government do to improve cycling safety? 


3.1.          Traffic law and enforcement:

3.1.1.     This is the key element missing from cycle safety strategies such as The Times campaign.

3.1.2.      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.

3.1.3.      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.

3.1.4.      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.



3.2.          Highways and off-road infrastructure.

3.2.1.      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.

3.2.2.     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.



3.3.        Cycle Training

3.3.1.      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.

3.3.2.        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. We believe it is essential to show that campaigns to promote cycle helmet and hi-viz use evade and confuse the issues which should be concentrated, as well as having a dubious or absent evidence base.


3.4.        Motorist training and cultural change.

3.4.1.   We believe that cyclist safety is just one part of the issues stemming from inappropriate motor vehicle use. The problem is just one part of the problem of road danger. As such, changing motorist behaviour is of benefit not just to cyclists but to all other road users.

3.4.2.   Motorist training has to change from being a confidence booster building unjustified feeling of pride, to one of awareness of responsibilities towards to other road users.

3.4.3.     Compulsory re-testing of drivers every five to ten years should be a requirement for general road danger reduction. An absolutely fundamental requirement is to achieve a cultural change where motorists realise their obligation towards cyclists as human beings with as much – if not more – right to use the road. 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.

3.4.4.      Negative attitudes and abuse towards 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.


3.5.        Other support for cycling.

3.5.1.   Because of the low casualty rate, massive health benefits towards cyclists and others, reduction in environmental and other problems, cycling as a form of everyday transport should be properly supported.

3.5.2.   In addition, as explained in 2 above, increasing the amount of cycling is part of dealing with the issue of danger towards cyclists.

3.5.3.   This should include not just provision of attractive highway and off-road environments, but also the realisation that inappropriate behaviour towards cyclists will become less socially tolerable.

3.5.4.   It should also include:

3.5.5.   Programmes to address other issues limiting take up of cycling, such as inadequate secure and convenient home cycle parking,

3.5.6.   Difficulty in accessing affordable bicycles and cycle accessories.

3.5.7.   This has been partly addressed by programmes associated with cycle training, such as London Borough of Ealing’s Direct Support for Cycling programme.



4.   Goods vehicles and professional drivers.

4.1.          In London a combination of cyclist Safety in Numbers and pressure on a group of motorists (HGV drivers) has resulted in significant  reduction of the chances of cyclists being hurt or killed.

4.2.          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. Such devices should be linked to black box devices to be used in criminal and civil proceedings after collisions.

·        Installing cyclist-activated braking systems to sensors to provide real safety.

4.3.          Extension of existing provisions to limit use of HGVs in urban areas during rush hours should be considered ,although this is of minor significance compared to other measures referred to.

4.4.           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.

4.5.          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.




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