Road Safety - Transport Committee Contents

5   Cycle safety

30.  Cyclists are specifically identified in the Government's vision for road safety as a group in which casualty numbers need to be reduced.[88] 3,085 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in 2011. This is a 15% increase on the previous year.[89] However, there is evidence of recent increases in the number of people cycling and the frequency with which they do so.[90] It is therefore difficult to tell the extent to which these increases in casualty numbers are a function of there being more cyclists on the roads.[91] A rate-based measure of cycle casualties, as proposed by the outcomes framework, should help to clarify this.[92] Nonetheless, increasing numbers of casualties in any road user group is unacceptable. A number of solutions to help reduce cycle casualties have been put to us, and are discussed below.

Cyclist training

31.  The wider uptake of cycling in recent years is to be welcomed,[93] but the Road Haulage Associated warned that

We have seen a very rapid increase of cyclists who may have a fairly low level of appreciation of risk. [...] We have to be aware that there is a very rapid increase of cyclists who are not given very much instruction as to good road behaviour. [...] I wonder if there is more scope for cycle awareness training, even when they buy a bicycle. "What is the best way to operate your bicycle?"[94]

£11 million a year is currently provided for Bikeability training in schools.[95] Cycling group CTC noted this, but highlighted a relative absence of training provision for adults: "we think there needs to be training made available for adults who wish either to discover or rediscover cycling later in life to give them the confidence and skills to handle the major roads."[96]


32.  HGVs are involved in 20% of collisions where the cyclist was killed.[97] CTC argued that more could be done by the haulage industry to address these statistics. In particular, it argued in favour of fitting lorries with sensors to make cyclists more visible to the driver. We saw some of the systems that can be added to HGVs during a demonstration by CEMEX on the Parliamentary Estate. We heard about their experience kitting out their HGV fleet with sensors and mirrors. There are a range of options for the types of systems that can be fitted.[98] The RHA warned us that

We are aware of the possibilities of sensors. We believe that in the long run it is very likely that some sort of sensors will come into the HGV sector. [...] There is a risk that sensors create an additional input for the driver, who has a lot going on around him. We just want to be sure that they are not counterproductive.[99]

CTC acknowledged that "sensory overload" was a potential issue for drivers, but insisted that sensors were cheap and could save lives.[100] The Government should consider how to encourage greater adoption of these measures.

Driver training

33.  Several witnesses argued that drivers needed to be more aware of vulnerable users. This awareness could be improved by including cycle or pedestrian safety as an element in the driving test.[101] Mr Penning told us that there was ongoing work in this area that may address these concerns.[102]

Urban planning and infrastructure

34.  Despite the growing popularity of cycling, we were told that "the infrastructure stays static."[103] The paucity of infrastructure for cyclists was described to us by James Harding, editor of The Times, as follows:

At the moment our cities are not fit for cyclists. They are dangerous for cyclists and we need to build new roads and new pathways. We have to rethink our cities in much the same way as a few really wonderful cities in Europe.[104]

He argued that this could be addressed by greater investment from Government, possibly by using a fixed proportion of the Highways Agency budget.[105]

35.  An alternative suggestion was that greater consideration should be given to cyclists during the planning process. Jon Snow told us

There are all sorts of planning regulations that facilitate living in an urban area. [...] It is absolutely essential that, if cycle safety is to be developed, there has to be compulsion in the planning system to make provision in every new urban development for the bicycle[106]

Mr Penning expressed some sympathy for the idea of building cycle provision into developments from an early stage as part of improvements to the road network:

If you are building something from scratch, there is no real extra cost in building into it that you are going to make sure that cyclists and pedestrians are in it. [...]We have only a limited amount of money, but when we do adapt, especially within my network, one of the things I am very conscious of is that we must make sure that the connectivity is there. There should not be any extra cost if you start from scratch.[107]

36.  Road engineering measures can be particularly important to help improve cycle safety. However, Norman Baker, Minister for sustainable travel, pointed out that the provision of infrastructure and inclusion of cyclists in the planning process was not simply a matter for the DfT, but needed a joined up approach across departments. For example, the Department of Communities and Local Government "need to ensure that there is proper provision in the planning regime to take account of" cycling.[108] We have not seen much evidence to suggest that the DfT is making sure that the necessary joint working is happening.

37.  Part of the Government's localism agenda looks to free local authorities to make their own decisions on the prioritisation of projects and resources at a local level. Despite the good intentions expressed by Mr Penning and Mr Baker to support the provision of cycle infrastructure, ultimately Mr Baker acknowledged that decisions on whether to build this infrastructure are not in the hands of the DfT:

in terms of cycle lanes from local authorities, we would not get into doing that, in the same way as we do not allocate money for bollards. We just do not get involved in allocating at that micro level. We allocate a transport block to local authorities, which they are able to spend as they see fit for their transport priorities.[109]

We agree that joint working between departments will be necessary to achieve road safety outcomes. We recommend that the Government shows how its efforts to work in partnership with departments such as DCLG and local authorities have been effective in encouraging the provision of cycle infrastructure and outlines which problems in securing this joint-working have yet to be overcome.

The Times campaign

38.  The Times has proposed an eight point manifesto to improve cycle safety following an incident in which one of its news reporters, Mary Bowers, was left critically injured after being hit by a lorry whilst cycling to work in November 2011. This manifesto echoed many of the points we have considered in this report.[110] In response to this campaign, the Prime Minister said:

I think The Times campaign is an excellent campaign. I strongly support what they are trying to do. Anyone who has got on a bicycle - particularly in one of our busier cities - knows you are taking your life into your hands every time you do so, and so we do need to do more to try and make cycling safer.[111]

We commend The Times campaign's work to draw attention to the work needed to make cycling safer. We consider the points contained in its manifesto provide a roadmap for how cycle safety can be improved. Given the Prime Minister's support for The Times cycle campaign, we recommend that the department issue a formal response to each of its eight points showing how they are being addressed and, if a point is not being acted on, what alternative action is being taken to address the matter.


39.  Several witnesses felt that there was a lack of leadership from Government in the area of cycle safety. Indeed, Jon Snow told us that "there is no leadership in Government in cycling at all. It is a completely neglected area, whatever it says on the paper."[112] He argued that Government departments with an interest in cycling must work together more effectively because "leadership looks like joining up Government." [113] James Harding proposed that there should be individual commissioners in major cities to highlight the interests of cyclists.[114]

40.  There have been a number of recent announcements regarding funding for cycling or cycle safety initiatives:

  • £15 million for cycle safety schemes outside London was announced in June 2012. This fund aims to tackle those junctions identified as being particularly dangerous for cyclists.[115] Further details will not be available until the autumn.
  • £15 million in the 2012 Budget to TfL for investments in cycle safety, which will include improved provision for cyclists at junctions across the capital as part of TfL's cycle safety junction review."[116]
  • £15 million allocated to an initiative with Sustrans and the Cycle Rail Working Group.[117]

However, there is little detail available on the projects to which this money is allocated, the progress in allocating and initiating cycle safety schemes, or the success in delivering road safety outcomes. Prior to The Times campaign on cycle safety it was difficult to see how the Government was showing leadership in cycle safety. There is now evidence of commitment, but, as Jon Snow said, leadership requires joining up Government. We are not convinced that this is happening and therefore there is much work still to be done.

88   Strategic Framework p11 Back

89   Reported road casualties in Great Britain: main results 2011 Back

90   Q 418 Back

91   Ev 139 para 3 Back

92   Q 43, Ev 139 para 3 Back

93   Q 397 Back

94   Q 55 Back

95   Strategic Framework p50 Back

96   Q 57 Back

97   Q 52, Ev 152 Back

98   Q 399 Back

99   Q 55 Back

100   Q 57 Back

101   Q 399 Jon Snow, Q 401 James Harding Back

102   Q 447 Back

103   Q 397 Jon Snow Back

104   Q 396 James Harding Back

105   Q 420 James Harding Back

106   Q 420 Jon Snow Back

107   Q 453 Mike Penning Back

108   Q 458 Norman Baker Back

109   Q 470 Norman Baker Back

110   The campaign considered fitting safety equipment to lorries, redesigning dangerous junctions, collecting better data on cycle accidents, earmarking £100 million from the Highways Agency budget for infrastructure, improving training for cyclists and drivers, changing the default speed limit in local areas without cycle lanes to 20 mph, encouraging businesses to sponsor cycle infrastructure and appointing city cycling commissioners Back

111   Cameron backs cycle campaign as calls grow for extra funding, The Times, 23 February 2012 Back

112   Q 391 Jon Snow Back

113   Q 411 Jon Snow Back

114   Q 413 James Harding Back

115   Further boost for cycle safety, DfT, June 2012,  Back

116   Budget 2012, HM Treasury, HC 1853, para 1.220 Back

117   £15 million growth funding on sustainable transport, DfT, February 2012,  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 18 July 2012