On Wednesday, the RAC Foundation, an offshoot of the famous Royal Automobile Club set up to carry out research which "explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and responsible road users" published its 176 page document Maintaining safe mobility for the ageing population. It is subtitled "The role of the private car" just in case we got excited there for a moment that "road users" might also include cyclists.
But the report is timely nonetheless because, as the report says about our ageing population in its introduction,"by 2033, it is expected that 23% of the population will be aged 65 and over." It was 16% in 2008.
Some of the initial findings are chilling for a cyclist, "When turning right at junctions older drivers are five times more likely than others to move into the path of a vehicle approaching from the right."
Or, "When drivers reach the age of 75, more than 50% of their fatal collisions involve proceeding when traffic signals indicate it is not safe to do so."
It doesn't help that large parts of the recommendations to reduce fatalities involve making cars more ergonomic, crash-resistant and impact-absorbing but the sections on "clear and unambiguous signage" and reduced speed limits do resonate, partly because the great majority of cyclists drive a car as well and will, indeed, get older but mostly because better roads, markings and signs have a benefit for everyone.
The worry, as ever, is that most drivers' definition of a "better" road really means a faster road with fewer people on bikes in the way. As Professor Stephen Glaister, the Director of the RAC Foundation says in his introduction, "Older people are now enjoying more healthy and active retirement years than ever before." We obviously hope that ever-more safe and enjoyable cycling fits into that healthy plan.