I emailed the new Transport Secretary at the beginning of the month, trying to get across my frustrations about cycling.
I just got a response, and I'm wondering why Mr. Andy Smith bothered: most of his reply seemed to be about how cyclists need to be told what to do on the road, rather than about what actual changes we might expect.
Anyway, my letter, and his reply:
Dear Mr. Hammond,
I’ve just read your interview in the Evening Standard online (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23838800-my-jags-a-joy-bu...) and I’d like to press you on cycling policy. The interview seems to suggest that you see cyclists (and indeed pedestrians) as second class transport users, and yet the Government is supposedly committed to a meaningful environmental policy.
I cycle to work most days in London, and I see things slightly differently to the way you’ve been quoted: “Cyclists need to be more aware of the risks around them. It frightens me to death when I see them pull out around other cyclists, completely unaware there is a car behind. Maybe they need wing mirrors.”
When I cycle to work, I have to share busy lanes with aggressive drivers who don’t give me enough space; I can’t get to the advanced stop lines because someone’s stopped on them and the police don’t enforce them; I have to watch carefully every car pulling into my lane because some can’t judge my speed (or don’t see me) so just pull out anyway. And best of all, I have to watch every car that goes by me, in case they decide to turn left right across the front of me without indicating.
You might think these are all little inconveniences, but I’m on a bicycle, and every time I come off my bike or I’m hit, I’m at serious risk of injury. Car drivers are usually at risk of a bodywork scratch or similar.
By the way – advanced stop lines are there for my safety, so I can pull away from the lights with a bit of space. And I pull out around other bicycles because that’s my right: when I’m in front of a car, that’s my right of way, and I shouldn’t have to take the exaggerated care I do, just to go on my journey. The real reason “you need to know what you’re doing to cycle in London” (as you say) is because even in a city where so many cycle, too many drivers feel they own the roads, and that others should defer to them.
Please write to me (and indeed thousands of other cyclists and pedestrians who were shocked by your interview) and tell me how you can improve our transport without just kowtowing to car users.
Thank you for your e-mail to the Secretary of State dated 1 June regarding cyclist safety. I have been asked to reply.
The Department for Transport currently has a number of measures designed to increase safety for cyclists. These are, Bikeability cycle training for children; advice to child and adult cyclists on safe road use through the Highway Code and the Think! road safety campaign; safe cycle routes to schools and other locations; guidance to local authorities on the design of safer road infrastructure, including effective cycle-specific measures as well as more general measures that benefit all road users; motor vehicle driver testing and training; and the visibility of cyclists and pedestrians.