A Conservative MP who earlier this year called for money set aside for cycling by Southampton City Council, including building cycle lanes, to be diverted to other uses has said that cyclists should be forced to ride in … cycle lanes.
Royston Smith, who represents Southampton Itchen, made his comments in response to the death on Monday of a 64-year-old cyclist following a collision involving an HGV on the city’s Portsmouth Road.
Speaking to the Daily Echo, Smith – who has a parliamentary majority of just 31, the fifth smallest in the UK – insisted that cyclists exposed themselves to greater danger by choosing to ride their bikes on main roads.
He said: “The risk factor involved when cyclists use busy roads is greater compared to using country lanes.”
That’s not supported by official statistics, however, with around half of cyclist fatalities in 2016 taking place on rural roads, according to the Department for Transport.
“Sometimes cyclists must use their judgement and try and stick to routes that have cycle lanes on them,” Smith continued.
“Some roads have been made and improved to ensure cycle access is better and the roads are wider, but we have to acknowledge that it’s dangerous for cyclists on certain roads and that they may need to consider when and where they cycle.
“The cycling lobby won’t like this but we have to do something to make the roads safer,” he added.
“We’re moving towards fewer cars on the roads and getting towards automated car improvement, but as of today there are 35 million registered cars on our roads.
“Until this gets lower, considerations need to be made.”
Describing the MP’s comments as “nonsense,” Colin Macqueen, co-founder of Clean Air Southampton, said: “A bicycle is a vehicle on the road, not causing the problem. Bad driving is the root of the problem.
“There have been five deaths in and around Southampton, with some occurring on quiet country lanes in the New Forest.
“Mr Smith says cyclists shouldn’t use busy roads, but two people died on those quiet roads which were caused by bad driving.”
The MP is a former leader of Southampton City Council, which is now Labour-controlled and, as Carlton Reid points out on BikeBiz, earlier this year called for £11.5 million in grant funding for the city’s cycling strategy to be diverted elsewhere.
Reid also notes that between 1993 and 2003, Smith owned a bike shop, Triangle Cycles, in the South Coast City.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns and Advocacy, told road.cc: “It seems clear Mr Smith has never met with anyone who campaigns for improvements for cycling, as no campaigner would dispute more needs to be done to make the roads safer.
“Rather than placing the blame for the injuries and fatalities on people cycling, the Southampton Itchen MP would be far better to address the causes, namely: dangerous road design, dangerous drivers and dangerous vehicles. Directing his energy towards these would make for safer roads for everyone,” he continued.
“Southampton City Council realises more needs to be done to make the roads safer and better for cycling, and Cycling UK would urge Mr Smith to support their work rather than hindering it by making ill-judged comments such as those reported by the Daily Echo.”
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.