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Half of Britons say local roads too dangerous for cycling in BBC poll

Campaigners call for more space — and money — for cycling

Cycling campaigners have issued a fresh call for more space to be given to cyclists on Britain’s roads after more than half of the respondents to a survey commissioned by the BBC said that it is too dangerous to ride on the roads where they live.

The poll of 3,012 adults, carried out by ComRes, is published ahead of Saturday’s start of the Tour de France in Leeds, but only one in five of those surveyed, 20 per cent, agreed that the prospect of the event coming to Britain had encouraged them to cycle more.

While 52 per cent said that their local roads were too dangerous for cyclists, only a third, 34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders. Meanwhile, 55 per cent believe that employers are not doing enough to encourage and facilitate cycling to work.

Chris Boardman, policy advisor to British Cycling which has today unveiled its vision of how the Headrow in Leeds could look if annual spend on cycling were raised to £10 a head, told the BBC: "It's clear … people don't feel safe when riding their bikes on our roads.

"In order to rectify this we need a clear commitment from government and local authorities to prioritise the safety and needs of cyclists in all future transport schemes."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport insisted however that the government had "doubled funding for cycling to £374m to help deliver safer junctions."

That funding relates to England and is spread over several years and as a result is well below the minimum £10 per head recommended in last year’s Get Britain Cycling report from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

According to British Cycling, current annual per capita spend on cycling in the UK is £2, compared to £24 in the Netherlands.

Martin Lucas-Smith of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, the largest such group outside London, said that residents of many parts of the UK “felt unsafe to cycle."

He also said that "things like narrow cycle lanes" and "badly maintained roads" contributed to safety fears among riders.

"We'd like to see proper allocation of space on these roads which can almost always be achieved simply by a bit of redesign, so people can cycle safely and easily," he added.

In April this year, research from the University of the West of England found that perception of the danger posed by traffic was the main barrier to getting more people on bikes.

Meanwhile, last week a survey published by retailer Halfords found that 40 per cent of respondents agreed that a dedicated cycle lane on every road would encourage them to cycle more often.

The Halfords survey also found that 19 per cent of people said they would ride a bike more often if there were better facilities at their workplace, such as showers.

Responding to the BBC’s findings on that issue, Claire Francis, head of policy at the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said: "Employers who encourage cycling can increase their profitability and have employees who take fewer sick days but without decent facilities and support, many businesses miss out on these benefits.

"Cycle parking and showers in an office should be as common as a printer and a coffee machine.

"But we also need the government to deliver better infrastructure and slower speeds on our roads, so that people feel safe to leave home on their bike," she added.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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73 comments

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HKCambridge replied to Joeinpoole | 9 years ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

There are huge (and growing) misconceptions by the public as to how dangerous the roads are and how safe cycling generally is. For example most people wrongly believe that the roads today are much more dangerous than they were say 20 or 30 years ago when in fact 4-5x more people were killed on the roads back then.

Couple of confounding factors here. Cars are a lot safer now than they used to be: fewer people die in cars because of improved safety features.

Also, fewer people walk and cycle. If there are fewer of the most vulnerable users around, fewer people will die.

Not saying that there isn't a trend, but would need more info to draw conclusions.

Quote:

It's all about the public's perception and I have no idea how that can be addressed.

You can't. I know the stats, I know the KSIs for walking v cycling, and cycling still feels like the more dangerous thing. You cannot put people on an unprotected piece of metal amongst motor vehicles and then tell them it's safe, because regardless of statistical safety.

Subjective safety is not something that can be wished away. People can, and already have, voted with their feet on what they are comfortable doing.

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mikeprytherch | 9 years ago
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There is a newly re-designed junction near I live and they could not of made it any more dangerous for cyclists, the road planners just don't give a shit, cyclists are the lowest of priorities.

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brooksby | 9 years ago
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Quote:

A spokesman for the Department for Transport insisted however that the government had "doubled funding for cycling to £374m to help deliver safer junctions."

Which is a pretty pathetic amount, when you consider how much road schemes seem to cost and how readily the powers that be will spend that money on them.

As an example, the 'M4 Junction 19-20 and M5 Junction 15-17: Smart Motorway scheme' - allowing cars to use the hard shoulder when its congested during rush hour (which for that section of road is every weekday evening, weekday morning, and all weekend from April to September) - cost £86 million. For one road scheme strtetching for about six miles and which involved just new signage and resurfacing the hard shoulder.

So £374 million really isn't going to do a lot (unless the powers that be have found a good supplier for blue paint...).

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DanTe | 9 years ago
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How do you change the way of thinking of an angry nation? Hard - yes. Impossible - maybe.

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rich22222 | 9 years ago
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"34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders"
I doubt these people understood the question...

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brooksby replied to rich22222 | 9 years ago
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rich22222 wrote:

"34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders"
I doubt these people understood the question...

Well, they may have actually been asked whether they thought a tarmacced road was better designed for bike riders than a mud track, or some such nonsense.

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rich22222 replied to brooksby | 9 years ago
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brooksby wrote:
rich22222 wrote:

"34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders"
I doubt these people understood the question...

Well, they may have actually been asked whether they thought a tarmacced road was better designed for bike riders than a mud track, or some such nonsense.

I suppose they would be well fairly designed if no motorised vehicles were allowed on them.

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Simon E | 9 years ago
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It's not really the roads and junctions that are at fault, it's dangerous driving.

Cycle lanes on every road is pie in the sky and wouldn't be needed if drivers were more considerate. That's not to say they shouldn't be built but they should not be a prerequisite for travel.

Showers at work aren't really necessary for most people, that says more about the answers people give to these kinds of surveys.

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congokid replied to Simon E | 9 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

Showers at work aren't really necessary for most people, that says more about the answers people give to these kinds of surveys.

Well, only 19 per cent of respondents agreed that showers would make a difference. Not a majority, then, and therefore a point that Sustrans doesn't need to bang on about, especially when you consider that in countries such as the Netherlands, where the cycling modal share is so much higher, showers are not regarded as essential at the journey end point.

As a bike owner what was more important for me at work was secure bike parking, preferably under cover. When my company moved from a premises with bike parking to one without, I switched to public transport. For two whole days, before giving up once I discovered the 5-mile journey in central London that took just 30 minutes by bike could take between 60 and 90 minutes by bus. I bought a Brompton, which stows neatly under my desk.

For many people, the lack of secure parking could make the difference between continuing to cycle to work and giving up once their bike is nicked or damaged. My Brompton was an extravagance that not everyone would consider, but I can keep it secure and it has paid for itself many times over since I bought it.

What would be even better from employers is to offer some kind of incentive for staff to actually use their bike, rather than simply to buy one. Perhaps in the form of a rebate for distance travelled, which would underline their green credentials and also enable them to make savings on car leasing, taxis, and the cost of parking places.

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GrahamSt replied to congokid | 9 years ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

Most folk would be astonished if you told them that 6x more people were killed on stairs each year than were killed cycling. But that's the truth.

That's purely because most folk have absolutely no idea about statistics.

If you naively compare absolute numbers like that then roughly 8x more people were killed in cars each year than were killed cycling.

That doesn't mean bikes are safer than cars or stairs.

congokid wrote:

..only 19 per cent of respondents agreed that showers would make a difference. Not a majority, then, and therefore a point that Sustrans doesn't need to bang on about..

Showers at work are about more than just having somewhere to freshen up or clean off the mud on wet days. They are a clear signal that management approve of and actively encourage cycling to work. Same as providing proper bike parking or offering the Cycle To Work scheme.

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brooksby replied to congokid | 9 years ago
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congokid wrote:

As a bike owner what was more important for me at work was secure bike parking, preferably under cover. When my company moved from a premises with bike parking to one without, ...

This is true. At present, there is a spare room in the basement where me and a handful of others in the building who cycle in, can leave our bikes. Secure, behind a digilocked door down to the basement (bars on the windows, that sort of thing).

Except my office are moving to new premises next year, and my boss still doesn't seem to see my pleading to make sure there is secure bike parking as a serious issue! It really is - I do not want to have to leave my bike locked up outside all day every day.

Weird, isn't it, that car parking is seen as vitally important for offices but bike parking (if any) is a spare room in the basement, between the boiler room and the cleaner's cupboard.

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dreamlx10 | 9 years ago
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"the danger posed by traffic"

Exactly, the roads are fine, it's the nutters who drive motor vehicles who are the problem.

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Nick T | 9 years ago
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Have we had any results from the report into how many members of the public look for excuses to take "easy" options yet?

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