Members of the House of Lords question the government on cycle safety and funding

Pedestrian safety, bike lights, and the 'vexed question of cycle helmets' all big concerns for peers of the realm

by Sarah Barth   February 1, 2014  

Commuter cyclist

A Conservative peer has led a debate in the House of Lords calling for a concerted effort to improve cycle safety by reviewing HGVs, cycle lanes, 20mph zones and the efficacy of cycle helmets.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth kicked off the questioning by asking the government “whether they propose to take action to promote the safety of cyclists?”

The answer, coming from the Conservative peer Lord Popat, was that: "We are continuously reviewing a number of safety measures,” and that the government “have committed £278 million of funding directly for cycling.

“Furthermore, the department has made it considerably easier for local authorities to implement a 20 miles per hour speed limit, Trixi mirrors, new designs of advanced stop lines and other highway measures to support cycle safety.

We also continue to work with the haulage industry to drive up vehicle standards and awareness of vulnerable road users.”

Undeterred, Lord Bourne went on to ask whether there could still be a review into these aspects, including cycling and motoring organisations - including research into “the vexed issue of cycle helmets”.

For those fearing an Australian-style cycle helmet mandate - worry not. Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety. It is not good to burden cyclists. We would rather see more cyclists on our roads and cycling safely.”

The Labour peer Lord Bradshaw was next up, wondering whether some local authority funding could be ringfenced for cycling, given the constraints on local government spending.

Lord Popat responded that the £278 million allocated to fund cycling - of course that should be viewed in the context of a total of nearly £13bn Department for Transport spending this year - was to be spent at the discretion of the local authorities.

He added: “With regard to cycle lanes, new roads are designed in such a way as to take cyclist safety and cycle lanes into account.”

Crossbencher Lord Aberdare was concerned about "the standards of cycling behaviour”, but Lord Popat seemed to assuage some of his fears by noting that he hoped a recent THINK! campaign aimed at cyclists and motorists could ‘eliminate’ problems such as cyclists riding without lights at night.

Lord Popat acknowledged that "there have been conflicts and hostility between the cyclist and the motorist" but when it came to pedestrian safety, well that was a matter for the police, with government support “to make sure that bad, dangerous or careless cycling on our pavements is prohibited.”

The most interesting new aspect of the debate came at the end, when Lord Popat revealed that come  autumn, the ‘cycle delivery plan’ would outline new safety measures for HGVs, “including written and oral tests for haulage drivers.”

17 user comments

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Quote:
Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety.”

No.

Bicycle helmets are have not been clearly shown to increase anyone's safety.

In addition he endless banging on about them, the publicization and promotion of them very clearly sends a negative message.

Lord Asshat and his fellow travellers need to turn their attention to the banning of the motor vehicle.

posted by Ush [437 posts]
1st February 2014 - 14:50

18 Likes

Ush wrote:
Quote:
Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety.”

No.

Bicycle helmets are have not been clearly shown to increase anyone's safety.

In addition he endless banging on about them, the publicization and promotion of them very clearly sends a negative message.

Lord Asshat and his fellow travellers need to turn their attention to the banning of the motor vehicle.

I agree with you on the helmets but do you honestly think that motorised vehicles should be banned?

There are bad drivers everywhere and endemic poor driving within cities, where space is at a premium, but to suggest that motorised transport should be banned is idiocy. The entire country and it's economy would grind to a halt.

What they should be doing is implementing measures to educate drivers, improve cyclist safety, improve infrastructure and make the bicycle a viable alternative to motorised traffic where possible.

What I hope they will not be doing is listening to hysterical, extremist comments (such as yours) on either side of the debate.

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [167 posts]
1st February 2014 - 15:15

26 Likes

jasecd wrote:
Ush wrote:
Quote:
Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety.”

No.

Bicycle helmets are have not been clearly shown to increase anyone's safety.

In addition he endless banging on about them, the publicization and promotion of them very clearly sends a negative message.

Lord Asshat and his fellow travellers need to turn their attention to the banning of the motor vehicle.

I agree with you on the helmets but do you honestly think that motorised vehicles should be banned?

There are bad drivers everywhere and endemic poor driving within cities, where space is at a premium, but to suggest that motorised transport should be banned is idiocy. The entire country and it's economy would grind to a halt.

What they should be doing is implementing measures to educate drivers, improve cyclist safety, improve infrastructure and make the bicycle a viable alternative to motorised traffic where possible.

What I hope they will not be doing is listening to hysterical, extremist comments (such as yours) on either side of the debate.

I don't see anything 'hysterical' about it. Extreme, granted. Unrealistic, yup.

In an ideal world, I'd like to see private motorised transport hugely restricted in urban areas, if not banned entirely. Calling for cars to be banned is a logical response to helmet pushing. The 'if it saves one life' rhetoric would actually be more soundly based with the former than the latter. If people want to use that line of argument they should realise where it logically leads.

But, obviously, politically it's very unlikely to happen (at least unless the oil runs out, and then we'll have other problems).

The awkward reality is that the private use of motorised vehicles is hugely subsidised, and hence people's choices are distorted. The trouble is its dammned near impossible to remove subsidies that such a politically powerful group (possibly at this point an actual numerical majority) benefit from.

But we should certainly work towards reducing car-dependence and making car-users pay the full cost of their habit.

(The way I see it, the calls for cars to be banned are kind of analogous to the response of feminist groups to patronising calls for women to not go on the streets without a male escort, that certain cops made at the time of the Yorkshire ripper. The feminist response was to demand a curfew for men. Politically 'extreme' yes, but I think it made a valid point.)

Edit - the use of commercial motorised vehicals, e.g. HGVs, for transporting goods I think is a slightly separate issue. There still seems to be a question why the use of rail has declined so much, but I think its a different question from that of private car use (and taxis - London cabs and all the special priviliges they get are our equivalent of Soviet Zil lanes, special perks for the elites).

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [753 posts]
1st February 2014 - 15:32

19 Likes

jasecd wrote:
Ush wrote:
Quote:
Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety.”

No.

Bicycle helmets are have not been clearly shown to increase anyone's safety.

In addition he endless banging on about them, the publicization and promotion of them very clearly sends a negative message.

Lord Asshat and his fellow travellers need to turn their attention to the banning of the motor vehicle.

I agree with you on the helmets but do you honestly think that motorised vehicles should be banned?

There are bad drivers everywhere and endemic poor driving within cities, where space is at a premium, but to suggest that motorised transport should be banned is idiocy. The entire country and it's economy would grind to a halt.

What they should be doing is implementing measures to educate drivers, improve cyclist safety, improve infrastructure and make the bicycle a viable alternative to motorised traffic where possible.

What I hope they will not be doing is listening to hysterical, extremist comments (such as yours) on either side of the debate.


To be honest, I cannot see why you think banning private motor vehicles would be 'idiocy'. It would improve most people's quality of life to exercise more, would reduce our dependence on oil, reduce NHS costs, reduce expenditure on road maintenance, reduce the direct death toll...

But if wanting those things is idiotic, we could at least charge motorists the full cost for their pleasure (http://www.greens-efa.eu/the-true-costs-of-automobility-8787.html).
That might amount to the same thing.

posted by oldstrath [208 posts]
1st February 2014 - 15:41

25 Likes

Call it idiocy, hysterical or whatever, however the fact is motor vehicles will NEVER be banned. They may well be limited to various days when oil starts to run out but i imagine by then a new source of propulsion will be in use and it wont matter.

Vehicles, cycles and pedestrians can all live together in harmony IF the infrastructure is done properly ie: Holland, without knee jerk reactions.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
1st February 2014 - 16:12

16 Likes

jasecd wrote:

I agree with you on the helmets but do you honestly think that motorised vehicles should be banned?

No, I think they're dangerous but useful, and they should be used when/as appropriate which is markedly different from their current over-use. But if we're going to have legislation interfering in this area then it should be directed where it would make a positive difference in safety.

Otherwise I'd prefer that they effed off and left me alone.

There's a huge problem here and it has nothing to do with helmets, high-viz, Strava or clipless pedals.

posted by Ush [437 posts]
1st February 2014 - 18:44

22 Likes

When they do finally go for helmet compulsion what will they say when the death rates still don't drop?

posted by MKultra [287 posts]
1st February 2014 - 18:48

24 Likes

oldstrath wrote:
jasecd wrote:
Ush wrote:
Quote:
Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety.”

No.

Bicycle helmets are have not been clearly shown to increase anyone's safety.

In addition he endless banging on about them, the publicization and promotion of them very clearly sends a negative message.

Lord Asshat and his fellow travellers need to turn their attention to the banning of the motor vehicle.

I agree with you on the helmets but do you honestly think that motorised vehicles should be banned?

There are bad drivers everywhere and endemic poor driving within cities, where space is at a premium, but to suggest that motorised transport should be banned is idiocy. The entire country and it's economy would grind to a halt.

What they should be doing is implementing measures to educate drivers, improve cyclist safety, improve infrastructure and make the bicycle a viable alternative to motorised traffic where possible.

What I hope they will not be doing is listening to hysterical, extremist comments (such as yours) on either side of the debate.


To be honest, I cannot see why you think banning private motor vehicles would be 'idiocy'. It would improve most people's quality of life to exercise more, would reduce our dependence on oil, reduce NHS costs, reduce expenditure on road maintenance, reduce the direct death toll...

But if wanting those things is idiotic, we could at least charge motorists the full cost for their pleasure (http://www.greens-efa.eu/the-true-costs-of-automobility-8787.html).
That might amount to the same thing.

Oh to be a a situation where I can sanctimoniously sit back and call for all private motor vehicles to be banned. That may be fine for your position, but for the likes of me who lives in a largely rural area and works all over Northern Ireland, often at anti-social hours, and also has an ill mother-in-law in Belfast- you make it sound that driving is a choice- for some it is and I wish those who didn't have to drive wouldn't. Personally I hate driving now but I have no option- if I need to be in Ballymena for 9am from my home (32 miles away), then back to my office in Cookstown (30miles from home) before heading to Draperstown where my group doesn't finish until 9pm- and that is aside from all the equipment I have to carry. Of course I would love a job I could cycle to-and would even take a pay cut if this could happen but to sit back and declare that no one needs a car is naive in the slightest.

Otis Bragg's picture

posted by Otis Bragg [131 posts]
1st February 2014 - 18:54

21 Likes

MKultra wrote:
When they do finally go for helmet compulsion what will they say when the death rates still don't drop?

That outcome is irrelevant to the scientifically-illiterate, dogmatic, helmet compulsive types, who unsatisfied with their own ability to wear a helmet freely, find it a necessity to force their unfounded helmet compulsion on everybody. After all, if an unproven device is made law by ill-thinking people why would sensible reason be used to undo such an act.

posted by sfichele [110 posts]
1st February 2014 - 20:25

20 Likes

MKultra wrote:
When they do finally go for helmet compulsion what will they say when the death rates still don't drop?

They will do what "they" have done in Australia and New Zealand. Ignore it. Pretend that fewer head injuries to cyclists, (though the decrease is smaller than the decrease in numbers cycling) means the roads are safer for cyclists. Then they will do studies based on small groups and sophisticated statistics which produce the desired result.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [300 posts]
1st February 2014 - 20:31

16 Likes

MKultra wrote:
When they do finally go for helmet compulsion what will they say when the death rates still don't drop?

What they won't do is repeal the law.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [300 posts]
1st February 2014 - 20:36

14 Likes

felixcat wrote:
MKultra wrote:
When they do finally go for helmet compulsion what will they say when the death rates still don't drop?

What they won't do is repeal the law.

I remain of the view that the underlying motive for pushing such a law is simply a desire to suppress demand for cycling and so get cyclists out of the way of drivers. So whether death rates drop or not won't matter to the helmet-law promoters.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [753 posts]
1st February 2014 - 21:47

25 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
felixcat wrote:
MKultra wrote:
When they do finally go for helmet compulsion what will they say when the death rates still don't drop?

What they won't do is repeal the law.

I remain of the view that the underlying motive for pushing such a law is simply a desire to suppress demand for cycling and so get cyclists out of the way of drivers. So whether death rates drop or not won't matter to the helmet-law promoters.

In view of the lack of statistics which convince everyone, perhaps, if or when a compulsion law becomes a live political issue, we should suggest that a study of its effects is demanded by the law.
It would be possible to do a comprehensive assessment of before and after.
A thorough and convincing census of numbers a miles cycled would not be too difficult but it needs the power as well as the funds of government to do properly.
The numbers of cyclists arriving in hospital, their injuries and the circumstances would be easier.
If this proviso was written into the bill beforehand, who could object? Both sides could object or agree to the method.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [300 posts]
1st February 2014 - 22:19

15 Likes

I'am afraid I would object for a start felixcat. For one thing you will never be able to provide statistics that convince everyone because most people prefer to remain loyal to their superstitious dogmas regardless of evidence. You can find the empirical evidence already provided in the Australian figures.

Therefore it would be most sensible to make a law that says no headgear is allowed to be called a "cycling" helmet. This on the basis that those who wear them are hazarding their own and others safety by promoting the myth that cycling is dangerous. This affects others safety by preventing them from taking up cycling because they think it is dangerous. When it is, in fact, safer for their health than not cycling.
It reduces the wearers safety by not having so many cyclists around them on the road, which both reduces motor vehicles (motor vehicles being pretty much - but not quite, the only significant mortal hazard to cyclists) and increases the number of cyclists, which increases motorists awareness of them.

So as has been said the helmet issue (apart from making a law banning them) is like Hi viz, Spd's etc a complete "red herring" About the only thing that harms cyclists is motor vehicles - it is these which should be addressed. Not the victims.

posted by Giles Pargiter [43 posts]
1st February 2014 - 23:15

18 Likes

Even if "they" did introduce a "helmet" "law" it wouldn't mean diddly squat to me.

posted by northstar [1112 posts]
2nd February 2014 - 0:03

15 Likes

I think one of the problems is that helmet testing standards have not kept up with our understanding of how helmets work and under what circumstances they work not to mention helmet technology.

Just wait MIPS helmets will all the rage next year.

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/index.html

posted by Nzlucas [111 posts]
2nd February 2014 - 0:30

14 Likes

Giles Pargiter wrote:
I'am afraid I would object for a start felixcat. For one thing you will never be able to provide statistics that convince everyone because most people prefer to remain loyal to their superstitious dogmas regardless of evidence. You can find the empirical evidence already provided in the Australian figures.

You misunderstand me Giles.
I was talking about objecting to agreeing a fair method of assessment of the effects of a law. Whether pro or anti the law one should not object to an objective test of its effects, especially since the method could be thrashed out beforehand.
This idea is an attempt to move people away from their dogma.
I am very anti compulsion and I believe that a scientific study would show that the law had failed, and so it would have to be repealed.
The compulsionists presumably believe that the science would prove that helmets work.
If the two sides could agree on the method beforehand it would be very difficult for the side which did not like the result to maintain their position.
As I say, I feel confident that a whole population study would show no benefit, just as the "experiments" in Oz and NZ already do. I am seeking to remove any possible reason to ignore these results.
I mean results like this. http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/17/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law/

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [300 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 10:43

6 Likes