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Campaigners call for more space — and money — for cycling

Cycling campaigners have issued a fresh call for more space to be given to cyclists on Britain’s roads after more than half of the respondents to a survey commissioned by the BBC said that it is too dangerous to ride on the roads where they live.

The poll of 3,012 adults, carried out by ComRes, is published ahead of Saturday’s start of the Tour de France in Leeds, but only one in five of those surveyed, 20 per cent, agreed that the prospect of the event coming to Britain had encouraged them to cycle more.

While 52 per cent said that their local roads were too dangerous for cyclists, only a third, 34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders. Meanwhile, 55 per cent believe that employers are not doing enough to encourage and facilitate cycling to work.

Chris Boardman, policy advisor to British Cycling which has today unveiled its vision of how the Headrow in Leeds could look if annual spend on cycling were raised to £10 a head, told the BBC: "It's clear … people don't feel safe when riding their bikes on our roads.

"In order to rectify this we need a clear commitment from government and local authorities to prioritise the safety and needs of cyclists in all future transport schemes."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport insisted however that the government had "doubled funding for cycling to £374m to help deliver safer junctions."

That funding relates to England and is spread over several years and as a result is well below the minimum £10 per head recommended in last year’s Get Britain Cycling report from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

According to British Cycling, current annual per capita spend on cycling in the UK is £2, compared to £24 in the Netherlands.

Martin Lucas-Smith of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, the largest such group outside London, said that residents of many parts of the UK “felt unsafe to cycle."

He also said that "things like narrow cycle lanes" and "badly maintained roads" contributed to safety fears among riders.

"We'd like to see proper allocation of space on these roads which can almost always be achieved simply by a bit of redesign, so people can cycle safely and easily," he added.

In April this year, research from the University of the West of England found that perception of the danger posed by traffic was the main barrier to getting more people on bikes.

Meanwhile, last week a survey published by retailer Halfords found that 40 per cent of respondents agreed that a dedicated cycle lane on every road would encourage them to cycle more often.

The Halfords survey also found that 19 per cent of people said they would ride a bike more often if there were better facilities at their workplace, such as showers.

Responding to the BBC’s findings on that issue, Claire Francis, head of policy at the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said: "Employers who encourage cycling can increase their profitability and have employees who take fewer sick days but without decent facilities and support, many businesses miss out on these benefits.

"Cycle parking and showers in an office should be as common as a printer and a coffee machine.

"But we also need the government to deliver better infrastructure and slower speeds on our roads, so that people feel safe to leave home on their bike," she added.

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.