MPs respond to national road safety report with call for clampdown on anti social cyclists

MPs air anti-cycling prejudices in response to report calling for better road safety for cyclists and children

by Tony Farrelly   October 22, 2009  

Commuter cyclist

In a move which many will interpret as blaming the victim MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday responded to a National Audit Office report on road safety by calling for a clamp down on anti social cycling. In particular the MPs wanted the Department for Transport and the police to act against pavement cyclists and those that jump red lights.

The National Audit Office report they were responding too was published in May and suggested that while Britain's roads were getting safer for drivers it was behind other countries in its approach to road safety for vulnerable groups in particular children and cyclists. In 2007 more than 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists were injured, while 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists were killed on Britain's roads.

However, the MPs focussed their attention on calling for the Department of Transport to clarify the law on riding on pavements and that more should be done to "devise education, training and publicity measures to target such anti-social behaviour, particularly when it breaks traffic laws".

The committee did note that casualty rates amongst cyclists had risen by 11 per cent since 2004, but went on to say that "perception that anti-social behaviour of some cyclists increases their risks and makes other road users feel unsafe".

In its response to the committee the Department for Transport (DfT) said that clamping down on cycling offences: "was typically not high on the agenda of most police forces due to competing demands on their time". It also pointed out anti-social cyclists represent only a small number of total cyclists.

Tory MP David Curry's said that some cyclists were: "irresponsible and arrogant road users" and that many people believed they took no notice of red lights and believed traffic cones were "not for them".

"The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons," he said. "We seem to regard cyclists as living in some sort of superior moral category when they actually do not have any."

Safety campaigners will no doubt point out that an MP or anyone else being hit by a cyclist on the pavement is a bad thing, every year far more people are killed and seriously injured on pavements by motor vehicles. There is also the question of why some cyclists feel safer riding on the pavement than on the road.

Mr Curry's comments though had cross party support, Labour MP Geraldine Smith said that sometimes irresponsible cycling was "dismissed as something trivial" but it was a common complaint at meetings in her constituency.

Responding to the Committee's remarks Richard Deveraux, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport said:

"There are, without doubt, some elements of the cycling community who are in that position and there are equally, I imagine, rather more people who are far more dangerous drivers as well".

LCC communications officer Mike Cavenett said: "LCC is pleased this report highlights the importance of protecting vulnerable road users such as walkers and cyclists. In particular, that it identifies vehicle speed as a crucial factor in determining the number and severity of deaths and injuries on our roads, and LCC has long advocated 20mph speed limits in all residential urban areas.

“The report also points out the disproportionate number of child deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicles in poorer neighbourhoods, which must be addressed. We feel these are more urgent issues with much more severe consequences than the occasional cyclist riding on the pavement."

“No one condones anti social cycling but I think you have to keep things in perspective - there are other more serious problems."
 

23 user comments

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Irresponsible cycling is "dismissed as something trivial" because it *is* something trivial in a debate about road safety. It could scarcely be more trivial. How many less pedestrians will die per year if every irresposible cyclist cleaned up their act? Less than one, based on statistics from the past ten years. That's certainly worth concentrating on. Meanwhile, eight cyclists have already died this year in London alone under the wheels of LGVs. People jumping red lights on their bikes is annoying and anti-social, in my opinion. But no-one dies, do they?

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [302 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 9:18

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That's not quite true - although the number of people that irresponsible cyclists kill is very small, there's no doubt a proportion of the deaths and injuries in the figures above that can be directly apportioned to the actions of cyclists: some cyclists will die every year because they behaved irresponsibly. The heart of the argument here is whether cyclists are more sinning than sinned against. The MPs seem to think the former. I take the opposite view, and so it seems do the DfT.

These calls are at best unhelpful. David Curry's assertion that "The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons" is going to grab headlines but as an addition to the debate it's pretty pointless. The only time I've been knocked down is by a car; my own experiences are opposite to his, but equally invalid.

I see plenty of irresponsible and arrogant road users every day. Most of them aren't cyclists. Some of them are, but tackling arrogant and irresponsible motor vehicle use is what'll bring the accident rates down. not such an easy thing to propose though, is it?

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7322 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 9:30

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It does show you the interesting dynamic in Parliament, that carefully crafted research and professional opinion from the wonks at the DfT can be shot down by one MP saying, 'well this once happened to me so it must be a social scourge, down with this kind of thing' and then the ball gets rolling with a 'oh, yeah I heard about someone that this happened to, and I saw a bike set off before the lights had changed once'

It's beginning to bug me that my morning commute has to be almost a political statement and that the odd transgression by the odd cyclist seems to gain an order of magnitude that other forms of transport do. We're all just trying to get to work and get home safely, but generally enjoy ourselves on the way. I really think it's the last bit that gets people's goats. Wow, bit of a ramble, but hope you get my point.

Start Cycle Commuting. Write off your car!

posted by step.doran [71 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 9:48

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Totally agree with you step.doran. It is a bit of a worry too that the level of debate from MPs is so ill informed, you wonder if they actually read the report or understood it, or did they just flick to the executive summary before getting back to the important business of filling in their expenses forms… that's me airing my own ill informed prejudices there.

It does make you wonder though, if a committee of MPs responding to a report on road safety can be so ignorant about this subject how many other things are they equally clueless about?

On a bike somewhere…

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posted by thebikeboy [138 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 10:05

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It's a weird feeling sticking up for the civil servants, but I just get the feeling this isn't the most considered of debates on the other side.

Start Cycle Commuting. Write off your car!

posted by step.doran [71 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 10:36

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Full quote from David Curry from the parliament web page:

Quote:
Why are cyclists such irresponsible and arrogant road-users? The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons, dressed like Darth Vader, as they all do! Many people think that cyclists are hugely irresponsible, that they do not take any notice of the red lights, they think that road traffic cones are not for them, it is very competitive and that they are dangerous.

Now he doesn't say he was on the pavement when he was hit. Maybe he stepped out into the road without looking?

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1337 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 11:14

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The DfT is taking the correct view as anti-social cycling, while it does occur, causes so few serious accidents in the scale of things. Perhaps we should really be considering things such as people driving while under the influence of drugs, which really does cause a lot of accidents and why the UK has not so far introduced drug testing kits for the police, despite the fact that these have been proven to be effective in Australia. Perhaps tackling the issue of distracted driving with people using mobiles and texting would also help make a huge cut in the UK's annual fatality rate. And even though we've had seat belt laws since the early 80s, around 300 people still die in vehicle crashes/year in the UK who would have survived had they been wearing a seat belt. I'd like to see the figures on injuries caused by rogue cyclists compared against that last figure alone, just to show how ridiculous the comments made by the MPs actually are.

It'd be nice if all MPs living within a minimum of five miles of Westminster and who are aged under 60 and who have no physical disability should be required to cycle to work as part of the target to reduce expenses claims. Somehow I think it won't happen.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2192 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 11:15

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Quote:
Full quote from David Curry

just read the transcript. he sounds like a reasonable chap. oh wait. he sounds like a tit. Big Grin

purplecup's picture

posted by purplecup [232 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 11:38

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cat1commuter wrote:
Full quote from David Curry from the parliament web page:
Quote:
Why are cyclists such irresponsible and arrogant road-users? The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons, dressed like Darth Vader...

Has our very own TR been promoted from Stormtrooper, then? Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8027 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 11:38

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More gems from the mouth-hole of Curry:

Quote:
What is your view of these flat bikes, bikes which are parallel to the ground where the cyclist lies back on them with his feet above his head? Do you think they are safe, according to some Health & Safety Executive rule, in that they are likely to go sliding under a lorry or under a dog's nose?

Quote:
We are all delighted at the success of British Olympians in the cycling events in the recent Olympic Games, but why do you think so many cyclists think they are still competing in the Olympic Games when they are on the roads of Britain?

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7322 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 11:43

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Why do they all have to make mention of how we dress, as if that in some way mitigates their ridiculous points of view?
We don't dress conventionally, so we must be subversive, and therefore subject to restriction.

It appears that as long as you wear everyday casual clothing, you can jump red lights in a car, drive with a lack of due care and attention whilst on the phone, bully people with your superior bulk (I'm back to that Mercedes driver again!), speed, drink, smoke ganja at the wheel, and not incur the wrath of these people, just don't dress in lycra...

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [649 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 11:56

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Well, it's not as if Curry's got anything better to do.

Oh, hang on. Tuesday's Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/oct/20/david-curry-sleaze-watchd...

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8027 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 12:04

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We get parliamentarians ire because other than VAT on the copious amounts of kit we buy, there's no cost effective way of taxing, licensing or otherwise keeping track of us.

Most car drivers are a bit jealous of this fact too, hence constant, put rego plates, get insurance, tax 'em calls.

Start Cycle Commuting. Write off your car!

posted by step.doran [71 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 12:05

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Old Ridgeback, probably the reason the UK police haven't introduced drugs testing kits over here is because, as my kids pointed out to me the other day, as the ad says it's so easy to spot a drugged up drivers because they all have really big eyes… it's amazing the rest of the world's police haven't picked up on the simple fact.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4135 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 13:42

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I love the comment that we behave as if road traffic cones arent for us.

On the occasion that I dodge inside of cones it normally is because Im feeling self concious about holding up traffic, so dart inside the cones to let the cars past rather than as a advantage for me.

Id love to that MP try and survive in traffic on a bike, then he might have more respect.

posted by miffed [163 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 19:50

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I am a 20 mile a day cycling commuter.Every day I use my bike is one less car on the road causing conjestion and delays to all the other motor vechicle users.Do all car users think all cyclist cant/dont drive?(probabily!)Do they realise if I wasnt on my bike then they would be delayed in traffic a little longer?(probabily not).I'm just pleased with myself that I do my bit for the environment, that I'm fitter and healthier than most and save money on travel costs to name a few of the positive pros we cyclists know.
I do stop at red lights and obey traffic laws but I also cycle defensively and aggressively as part of the daily course of surviving urban traffic.If it makes motor vechile users take notice then this might just save a cyclist who is not as confident on busy roads.
Rant Over!!! Angry

jasonchatty31

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posted by chatty31 [75 posts]
22nd October 2009 - 23:35

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I don't see any comments about anti social pedestrians - the ones that step out without even looking and get themselves run over? or the ones that go against the red man on the crossing, surely this is just as 'relevant' as anti social cyclists?

Rode the E'Tape Caledonia - first sportiv ever and thoroughly enjoyed it

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posted by badbunny [71 posts]
23rd October 2009 - 8:36

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Quote:
I don't see any comments about anti social pedestrians

I refer you to Dr Ian Walker's excellent latest blog post...

http://bamboobadger.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-i-hate-pedestrians.html

Big Grin Big Grin

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7322 posts]
23rd October 2009 - 9:43

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Badbunny - a lot of the pedestrians stepping out without looking in London are tourists who look the wrong way - had a few close calls over the years and one not at all close call as I did actually hit two Danish tourists who walked in front, leaving me no time to stop (luckily, only egos were bruised).

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2192 posts]
23rd October 2009 - 10:59

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Sorry to be controversial, but whilst the details may stink, and some may make silly comments about cyclists, I would like to see some of these a$$hole cyclists out there sorted out.

Every time a reasoned debate is started on cyclists safety, non-cyclists always point to these idiots, and it detracts from sorting things out.

We can sit here stubbornly and whinge, or take on those amongst us who embarass us, and educate those amongst us who require it, and give everyone an excuse not to treat us like human beings.

I sometimes have to drive as well as cycle unfortunately, and its actually quite scary driving a car around London - even worse at night when people seem to think LED lights are sufficient - I have news for you - they're not - you can barely see 90% of London cyclists at night.

Trouble is, with all the new cyclists in London, they all seem to copy the numpties, so now you have inexperienced riders doing risky things that are beyond their abilities too.

Our own house needs to be in order if we want to be treated right - not necessarily before things are sorted out, but we can't expect to be taken seriously whilst we are in denial about those amongst us who pi$$ off the general public.

We should at least acknowledge the problem and begin addressing it ourselves. This will take an excuse away from our detractors.

posted by andyn [7 posts]
23rd October 2009 - 13:00

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I don't think that anyone's asking for a blind eye to be turned to cyclists who ride irresponsibly or flout the law, certainly that's not what I'm doing. What we're asking for is a reasoned response to the issues of road safety. The MPs' response – David Curry's in particular – to a serious document from the Audit Office is laughable. It's not enough to single out cyclists who misbehave as a problem and, for example, not do the same for motorists. It's a question of balance. On balance, it's the bad driving that's more of a problem.

Some of the things I do as a cyclist - taking the lane on narrow sections, using multi-lane roads like a car would, filtering to the ASL - piss some drivers off, but at the same time they're helping to ensure my safety in traffic. It's not as easy as to just say "we shouldn't misbehave", there's much more to it than that. You only need to read through the comments on the Daily Mail's piece to realise that some people will hate cyclists no matter what they do. Some drivers are simply pissed off that I've got a bright jacket on, for goodness' sake.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7322 posts]
23rd October 2009 - 14:56

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Why are pedestrians such irresponsible and arrogant road-users? The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a pedestrian who was too selfish and lazy to walk 20 metres to the junction and wait for the light to turn green. Why do pedestrians feel that all traffic should stop and part before them like the Red Sea for Moses because they can't be bothered to look where they're going before they step off the pavement? Their behaviour makes them a menace and a danger to themselves and others and they should be banned for the sake of everyone's safety.

posted by kilotango [7 posts]
23rd October 2009 - 15:04

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Within 2 miles from my home one pedestrian lost his life and another elderly lady was hit and broke her hip in the fall. In each case, a cyclist was involved, going like a bat out of hell on the pavement. It's not difficult to be doing 20 - 30mph on this section, as it's on a hill. This isn't a shared-use pavement, and according to Rule 64 of the Highway Code you MUST NOT cycle on a pavement. Doesn't seem ambiguous to me.

The only time I don't ride on the road is if I'm on an off-road trail, or if I'm crossing the pavement into my driveway. In fact, it feels wrong for me to use the dual-use pavements/cycle tracks.

Thankfully, I don't live in a city, and traffic lights aren't on every street corner etc but I always obey red lights, cones etc, because I don't particularly want to be an accident statistic.

SOME cyclists (always the minority) don't help the cycling cause at all - invariably, at night on some of the darker roads I (just) see cyclists dressed in dark colours, no reflectors or lights (last week, even riding on the wrong side of the road ie straight at me!). How they ever get home, other than in an ambulance, I'll never know, and incidents where cyclists kill or injure pedestrians on pavements do nothing more than demonise all cyclists.

I drive a car, motorcycle and cycle and I also walk & run a fair amount. The rules of the road are there to enable us to use the roads, pavements, byways etc in a safe and reasonable manner - if only everyone stuck to them.

dph

posted by dph [5 posts]
24th October 2009 - 13:47

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