Sixty Minutes – Vicious Cycle report

I actually missed this as I rarely watch Sunday TV.  However an acquaintance drew my attention to the report and I caught up on the net.  The report was the usual mish mash of highlighted tensions between cyclists and motorists, noteable for negative one liners from motorists.  I find it fascinating that motorists get up such a head of steam about cyclists ‘not obeying the road rules’ when any regular cyclist will daily witness blatent disregard for, or total lack of knowledge of these rules by a significant number of motorists.  This may also reflect motorists frustration at cyclists apparent freedom of movement as even the presenter admitted feeling resentment towards cyclists as they sailed past whilst she was stuck in a traffic jam.  So a recently released report by the UK Department of Transport makes interesting reading.

This report (and I’m relying on a summary published in the English Guardian Newspaper at www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/15/cycling-bike-accident-study ) reviews the causes of cycling accidents in the UK which have seen a nearly 20% rise in cyclists deaths and serious injuries in the second quarter of 2009.

Analysed data for 2005-07 showed that more than 25% of cycling deaths happened as a result of a vehicle running into the back of a bicycle.  For rural areas the figure increased to more than a third with 60% occuring at junctions. With adult cyclists, drivers were found to be solely responsible in 60-75% of all cases.

By comparison serious injury as a result of a rider disobeying stop signs or traffic lights 2%, dark clothing 2.5% and no lights 2%.  So if you persist in charging through stop signs in dark clothing at night without lights you have increased you serious accident chances by 6.5%.

Of collisions leading to death or serious injury, 3% occured in bike lanes, 80% during daylight and in over 15% of cases the cyclist was alone.

UK cyclist lobby group concludes that the most effective cycling safety feature would be for ‘government to now focus on tackling the causes of injury which appears mainly inconsiderate and dangerous driving”.  It is notable that the UK has not adopted the same legislation as many continental countries which in the event of a collision between a cyclist and a vehicle, the vehicle is totally liable.

For those of us who ride daily, dangerous and inconsiderate driving is all to apparent, and not just amongst motorists. there are plenty of impatient and inconsiderate cyclists out there too, but they are at least unlikely to kill or seriously injure you.

The Sixty Minute report had car drivers trotting out ‘bicycles should be licensed’ argument – the basis for this appeared to be so that errant cyclists could then be identified, caught and ‘punished’.  Really!  The current vehicle licensing system has not improved driver behaviour and in some areas such as fines for speeding, struggles to keep up. So why would you add another million bicycles licenses, not to mention the expansion of the bureaucracy to manage them.  The most likely effect of bicycle licensing would be a combination of discouraging people from cycling and large scale civil disobediance, hardly positive outcomes.

So where do we start?  I suggest driving licence renewal.  Every time you renew your license you must take and pass a written test covering the current roads rules.  This will ensure that you have knowledge of the current road rules and as most of us hold drivers licenses, it will benefit all road users, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

About Peter Bartlett