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‘Death-traps’ on our roads

  • by JW

“30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on our roads every year, and less than three of those are involving cyclists.” [National Active Travel Commissioner – and former Olympian – Chris Boardman]


There’s a lot of rage around cyclists – with one mainstream paper pointing to 52mph in a 20mph zone – and “how cyclists are turning UK roads into death traps” – although, as reported in the same piece:

Strava [the GPS fitness tracker] enthusiasts claim dangerous cyclists are a small minority. “The idea that there are cyclists all over London obsessed with setting PBs on segments of flat, pedestrian heavy roads in London is fanciful,” says one, though he adds: “Regents and Richmond Park are well known loops so are an exception – there will be people trying to set times there.”

These fears mean that death by dangerous cycling is set to become an offence:

Causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling is set to become an offence, after the government agreed to a change in the law. Under the change, dangerous cyclists could face up to 14 years in prison. It followed campaigning by Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith who said cyclists should be accountable for reckless behaviour. The law change will be introduced after Sir Iain proposed an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. Speaking in the House of Commons, the former Conservative leader said his proposal was not “anti-cycling”. “Quite the opposite, it’s about making sure this takes place in a safe and reasonable manner,” Sir Iain said.

And yet, as another mainstream newspaper suggests, this is spinning out of control – as cyclists say MPs are peddling fears over road safety:

Hilda Griffiths, 81, died almost two months after she stepped out into the path of a cyclist in July 2022, giving him no time to stop, he told the coroner. An eyewitness testified it had not been the cyclist’s fault, and the coroner found that the collision had been an accident, but the dead woman’s son, Gerard Griffiths, called for a change in the law, saying: “Unfortunately, my mother was the victim of it but at some point, something like that was going to happen because they neither have the will nor obligation to stop.”

Armed with a handheld speed camera, the Guardian observed cyclists at one of the fastest stretches of the route [through Regents Park]; most were below or around the 20mph mark, though the fastest was riding at 25mph. Here as with elsewhere on British roads, though, cyclists are not subject to the motor vehicle speed limit as they don’t carry speedometers.

Few will argue with measures that will make roads safer. But for many who ride bikes, this week’s debate around “killer cyclists” has been frustrating and disproportionate, given the very small numbers of casualties from cyclists compared to the 30,000 killed and seriously injured each year by motor vehicles in the UK.

As the National Active Travel Commissioner – and former Olympian – Chris Boardman says on the proposed anti-dangerous cycling laws There are more people killed by lightning and cows than cyclists”:

“My mother was crushed to death by a driver. That day, there were four other people [killed by drivers], and the day after, there was another five people, and so on. Yesterday, there was a young boy killed in Birmingham while he was walking. Then there’ll another four. Today, there will be another five. There are more people killed by lightning and cows than cyclists. Everybody should obey the laws of the road, but I’m frustrated that the focus on something that is so good for society and joyous is in such a negative way. I’d rather be sitting here talking about how do we save five lives a day. 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on our roads every year, and less than three of those are involving cyclists.”