One in five cyclists in London have stopped riding their bike to work as a result of the six deaths of bike riders in the city during a two-week period last month, while a further three in ten have varied their route to work – although the city’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, insists media attention on crashes in which riders have died provokes fear among both existing and potential cyclists.
However, perhaps surprisingly given those recent fatalities, cyclists do not believe it is more dangerous to cycle in London now compared to 12 months ago – only one in three of those who ride a bike at least once a week in the city agreed with that statement, and 38 per cent of those who ride there less often.
There is still however a widespread perception of cycling as being dangerous according to the poll, carried out by ComRes on behalf of BBC London, with more than two thirds of all respondents, including non-cyclists, disagreeing that London’s roads are safe to cycle on.
The survey results have been published just days after minister for cycling Robert Goodwill said he has never felt in danger while riding his bike in the capital, but can understand why others are fearful of taking to two wheels.
The minister also said he would like to see more women riding bikes in the city, but the ComRes survey of 1,070 people, of whom around a quarter were cyclists, shows that females were much more likely to strongly disagree with the statement that London’s roads are safe to cycle on, at 43 per cent versus 30 per cent.
Other findings of the poll include that almost half of regular cyclists – 47 per cent – disagree that the city’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways are safe to ride on, with 42 per cent agreeing that they are, and that 63 per cent of cyclists ride on pavements to avoid dangerous junctions and roads.
However, there was overwhelming support for segregated cycle lanes to separate cyclists from other traffic, at almost nine in ten respondents, consistent across those who ride weekly, less regular cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
Around eight out of ten respondents said Mayor of London Boris Johnson “should be doing more to respond to the deaths and serious accidents amongst cyclists on London’s roads.”
However, Mr Gilligan, appointed by Mr Johnson earlier this year, criticised the poll’s sample size as “manifestly tiny" (although for market research purposes, a sample of 1,000 produces a 95 per cent confidence level with a margin of error of +/- 3 per cent).
Speaking to BBC London, he also attacked the media for its "all-consuming focus" on the recent cyclist fatalities that he said "has contributed to the fear that cyclists and potential cyclists feel."
Even before November’s deaths, however, surveys have consistently shown that the perceived danger of cycling as the principal barrier to getting more people cycling.
Mr Gilligan added: "We know that fear about safety is a real and major deterrent to cycling and the mayor is doing more than any other politician in the country to address it,” and that investment was being made to "improve London's roads for cyclists, something that was happening before this recent tragic spate of deaths".
The poll’s results have been published a little more than a week after a separate survey of Londoners found that 35 per cent of cyclists at least ‘occasionally’ ignore red traffic lights although most – 53 per cent – state they never do so.
That poll, from YouGov, had a similar sample size – 1,066 respondents – and again, around a quarter of them said they were cyclists.
Nearly nine in ten of all respondents, 87 per cent, and 72 per cent of cyclists, agreed police “should prosecute far more cyclists who ignore red lights”.
Seven in ten bike riders surveyed by YouGov agreed that “there should be many more cycle lanes in London, even if this means reducing the road space available to motor vehicles,” as did nearly half of non-cyclists, 47 per cent.
However, more than half of all respondents, 55 per cent, agreed with the statement, “cyclists should be banned from some busy main roads in the morning and evening rush hour” – as did a surprising 42 per cent of cyclists.
The survey also found that half of non-cyclists, and nearly two in three bike riders, 64 per cent, shared the view that “all employers should be required by law to provide dry, secure places where employees can leave their bicycles.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.