The Times publishes more than 4,000 personal accounts by cyclists of dangers they face on Britain's roads

Launch of online app comes as senior politicians including David Cameron back Cities Fit For Cycling campaign

by Simon_MacMichael   February 9, 2012  

The Times Cities Fit For Cycling logo

The Times newspaper, which launched its Cities Fit For Cycling campaign a week ago today, has published an online app containing more than 4,000 first-hand accounts by cyclists throught the the UK in which the sentiment echoed by many is the risk they feel they are exposed to by other road users. The publication of the stories coincides with Prime Minister David Cameron as well as senior Labour politicians giving their support to the newspaper's iniiative.

Mr Cameron, who before taking office at Number 10 Downing Street often cycled to Westminster from his home in Kensington - on one occasion, famously snapped being followed by his car - told The Times he was committed to promoting cycling and making conditions safer, although whether his words will translate into action by a government widely seen as favouring motorists over those who choose to ge around by other means remains to be seen.

“As a keen cyclist, I congratulate The Times for drawing attention to this issue," he said. "We want to encourage cycling as a cheaper, greener, more healthy way of getting from place to place, and making people feel safe cycling on the roads is crucial to that.”

The Times reported that the Shadow Transport team had paid a visit to the junction close to the newspaper's Wapping headquarters where journalist Mary Bowers was struck by a lorry in November. She remains in a coma.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle commented: “Even though there have been big cuts to the Highways Agency budget, there is no reason why some of that money ought not to be focused on building safe access and routes.”

The newspaper has called for £100 million of the Agency's budget to be diverted annually to fund cycling infrastructure, but to date Transport Minister Mike Penning, who has responsibility for roads and road safety, appears unwilling to reallocate funds, saying: "“We are already giving £1.8 billion to local councils over four years for transport improvements, including measures for cyclists, as well as providing £560 million to support local authorities specifically to use sustainable transport to create growth and cut carbon.”

As we reported yesterday, the issue of cycle safety is to be debated in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster on 23 February.

Meanwhile, the first-hand accounts published by The Times make for compelling reading, many relating experiences that will be all too familiar to those of us who choose to use a bike to get around. The app can be accessed here, but a small selection appears below.

The Times said: "Your stories have been read by Times journalists to ensure there are no breaches of the law or good taste. But otherwise they have not been changed and appear as you have written them."

Alix
In London Bus drivers seem to be really quite aware of cyclists. Taxi drivers are extremely aggressive on the other hand with a take no prisoners type attitude. Disappointingly, motorcyclists can also be a real threat, getting too close, cutting up and over and undertaking.

Andrew Austin
I cycle commute and have been hit by a car three times in the last 4 years - twice requiring an ambulance to take me to hospital. Near misses are a daily occurance. Drivers frequently go through red lights, fail to stop at islands (cause of my first crash) or undertake vehicles by going into bus lanes without looking to see if it is clear.

Alan Harbord
I have been riding my bike to work and for pleasure for over 40 years. I love the freedom and can't understand why more people don't use this simple way to get about. I try to use cycle routes and paths but too often these seem to have been designed by someone who has never been near a bike and take strange and long routes, too often you suddenly find you are deposited on a busy road and are fighting with the traffic. Like every cyclist I can tell you about car and van drivers who have gone out of their way to try to kill me. it seems ok to be able to use tons of metal to threaten someone on a bike and yes, some do it on purpose! A campaign like this can only do good, well done to the times.

Colin Rae
Man in Honda Civic 3 inches off my back wheel revving engine as loudly as he could in order to bully me into letting him past at that very moment. Let him past when lane widened and receive gesticulations from him and his lady. I sail past at next junction. Never saw him again. Was it really worth the headache?

Dr Phil Rice
I have commuted for 5 years, c. 40,000 miles covered. Knocked off once, very early on. Always EITHER stay behind lorries/buses at junctions and traffic lights OR get in front and STAY IN FRONT. Do not overtake unless you can always be in front. Works for me. Concentrate at ALL times. Watch pedestrians and become a real mind reader.

Adam Smith
I cycle to work every day and encounter as many bad cyclists as I do bad drivers. Both need to be educated and greater awareness needs to be given to safety.

Cherry Stewart
I am an enthusiastic road cyclist, I cycle competitively and for fitness. Frequently when I am on my bike moving with traffic I feel at risk. Drivers constantly get too close and drive too fast not allowing much for any kind of human error. This is terrifying at times and on days requires a huge amount of nerve to go out. Its a shame as I have two girls who enjoy the sport but don't enjoy the experience of cycling in this country. As a family we enjoy cycling in Holland where there is a big commitment to cycling within their infrastructure. I would like to see the same priority given to the cyclist here, more cycleways, more education on how to use them and better education to drivers.

Andrew Parker
Suddenly your published opinion piece by Matthew Paris (December 2007) ranting against cyclists and calling for piano wire to be strung across cycle paths doesn't seem so funny, does it?

 

 

32 user comments

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Bikesoup wrote:
I think that it is time that Andrew Austin realised that, perhaps, cycling is not for him.

Well, that's rather the point, isn't it? We need to arrive at a situation where anyone, of any age or confidence, can feel able to go out on the roads without fearing for their lives.

I'm happy to mix it with motor traffic because I'm confident and quite fast, and very aware of what other road users are up to. You probably are , too. A lot of other people, at the moment, wouldn't be happy due to bad road design, non-supportive legislation, apathetic policing and the sheer carelessness of a large minority of drivers.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
9th February 2012 - 19:05

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Agree totally, John. Our confidence has been developed over many years and is based on bikecraft, spatial awareness, communicating effectively with other road users, undertanding where risks are and accepting that we are all capable of making mistakes.

Cycling utopia is not going to arrive quickly and it's creation will involve changes to infrastructure, rider & driver training, policing, habits and the Law. In the 5 to 20 meantime years, perhaps we should have a closer look at ourselves, assess our own ability on a bicycle and ride in environments where we are going to be safe going from A to B.

Hit 3 times in 4 years & including 2 ambulances..... I'm thinking about burden to the NHS and emergency services, stress to other road users post-collision (jams), anxiety of family members & distress caused to the drivers involved. It all needs to be thrown into the mix before we become overly sympathetic to supposed victims.

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posted by Bikesoup [21 posts]
9th February 2012 - 19:45

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Very much agree with Alix's comments, as someone who cycles regularly in London. Dare I say it, I think there has been a minor improvement in the attitude of black cab drivers as they now realise that cycling is here to stay and they won't be able to scare us off the streets.

I was cycling to Sainsburys in New Cross before Christmas when a black cab overtook me and left a large gap as he did so. Was gobsmacked at his courtesy! Having said that, have had many black cabs pass me with just 2 inches to spare since.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
9th February 2012 - 20:04

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Reply to Bikesoup:
That's all very well and good but when I were a lad (and this were all opencast) young children, vicars (like my dad) and old maids cycling to mass (with apologies to John Major) felt they could could safely cycle on any road. Why can't they now?

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
9th February 2012 - 21:03

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londonplayer wrote:
Dare I say it, I think there has been a minor improvement in the attitude of black cab drivers as they now realise that cycling is here to stay and they won't be able to scare us off the streets.

It's not that new.

I was once, about 25 years ago, on a cycling demonstration aimed at stopping motorists parking in the (solid white-lined) cycle lane on Waterloo Bridge in London.

I blocked a driver from parking and a queue built up - until passing taxi driver shouted to the motorist, "Get a move on, thats a bloody cycle lane."

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
9th February 2012 - 21:06

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I used to regularly commute in London and agree that there are more than enough bad cyclists too but it must be said they don't have 1/2 ton of armour plating so good luck to them jumping lights and not signalling. My main gripe in town wasn't black cabs but Addison bloody Lee drivers! No idea of the speed limit, where the indicators are and not at all aware of the carnage they leave in their wake!

Shut up legs

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posted by slow-cyclo [74 posts]
10th February 2012 - 10:04

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"Prime Minister David Cameron as well as senior Labour politicians giving their support to the newspaper's initiative"

Sadly I suspect that it's nothing more than lip service to a campaign that is currently popular. Whether anything actually comes of it is another story.

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posted by mr-andrew [290 posts]
10th February 2012 - 10:05

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ive only just started cycling again after about 25years and the cycle ways around here are always full of glass thorns etc so roads it is but i seem to notice the smaller the car the nearer they get to you dont see theres much we can do about it but as a car driver aswell im now a lot more aware of cyclists .

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posted by scottytaz [12 posts]
10th February 2012 - 10:30

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Is it just me or is The Times' idea of publishing all these "I got knocked off" stories actually counter-productive? Yes, we need action but surely it's also potentially putting people off trying cycling as a means of transport.

posted by crazy-legs [422 posts]
10th February 2012 - 10:41

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scottytaz wrote:
ive only just started cycling again after about 25years and the cycle ways around here are always full of glass thorns etc so roads it is but i seem to notice the smaller the car the nearer they get to you dont see theres much we can do about it but as a car driver aswell im now a lot more aware of cyclists .

Think you hit the nail on the head their scottytaz - the way to improve things is to give more car drivers a taste of what it's like to be on a bike, better still get more of them riding bikes, but at the very least make cycle awareness in some sort of practical form part of the driving test.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4103 posts]
10th February 2012 - 10:49

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Oh, and big respct to Andrew Austin for not giving up on cycle commuting

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4103 posts]
10th February 2012 - 11:03

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I've never found London's black cab drivers to be a big problem to cyclists in the +20 years I've been commuting in the city. They can be pushy but you generally have an idea of what they're going to do. Bus drivers aren't great at times and all too often hang just a few inches off your back wheel for a distance rather than slowing down progressively for a bus stop, but they're not the worst.

For sheer aggression, delivery van drivers of all types have to top the bill. They're the worst for overtaking then making sudden left turns across your path with only the briefest flicker of an indicator.

I'm always very careful around HGVs. I have been in the cab of various HGVs for work over the years and I know full well just how restricted the view is. Most HGV drivers aren't deliberately aggressive (and the large supermarket chains seem to hire the best for their artics) but they can't see that well.

Of HGV drivers the ones you have to be particularly careful around are waste industry trucks or Eastern European lorries. Skip lorries or vehicles carrying scrap metal tend to be driven more aggressively and I always try to keep my distance, whether I'm on one of my bicycles, my motorbike, or even in my car. The DfT has a lot of statistics on accidents involving foreign registered trucks and the risk posed by Eastern Europeans in particular are rather alarming.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1915 posts]
10th February 2012 - 11:09

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tony_farrelly wrote:
Oh, and big respct to Andrew Austin for not giving up on cycle commuting

I agree with your statement wholeheartedly!

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [170 posts]
10th February 2012 - 11:31

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Very goog point made by Andrew Parker regarding the piece by the idiot Matthew Paris. It's like James Martin's claim of running cyclists off the road when he was testing a car. How can the mainstream press print such rubbish?

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
10th February 2012 - 12:23

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With oldridgeback on his comment. Hackney's are pretty reasonable. The private hires are the real buggers I've found. Again, those who drive artics are pretty reasonable - they give me plenty of room etc. The ridgid and flatbed drivers are the real bar stewards quite possible as they have more pressure from their employers to meet targets. (Not sure if it has changed but I think you can actually drive up to a certain tonnage before sitiing a HGV?) White van man comes into this as well regards targets. These businesses should be prevented from making such demands on their drivers.

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posted by giff77 [945 posts]
10th February 2012 - 12:52

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crazy-legs wrote:
Is it just me or is The Times' idea of publishing all these "I got knocked off" stories actually counter-productive? Yes, we need action but surely it's also potentially putting people off trying cycling as a means of transport.

They are already put off crazy-legs, and have been for decades. Only a tiny minority of Britons cycle these days. No-one needs these stories to discourage them when they can already see the reality for themselves.

This is more about highlighting the truth of what's happening to those with the power to change anything on the roads. Unfortunately, cycle campaigns in the past have been blighted by the 'its not statistically dangerous' argument (technically true but counter-productive) and the CTC's daft 'safety in numbers' logic.

The numbers will never appear until the cycling environment is improved. It won't happen the other way round.

posted by don_don [149 posts]
10th February 2012 - 13:23

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So, this is a London thing right? Got to love our south-east as the centre of the world media.

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posted by G-bitch [298 posts]
10th February 2012 - 14:11

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G-bitch wrote:
So, this is a London thing right? Got to love our south-east as the centre of the world media.

Ok then, I've found pretty much the same rules apply in Edinburgh, which is also in the south east. London and Embra are the only UK cities I've lived in.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1915 posts]
10th February 2012 - 14:54

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G-bitch wrote:
So, this is a London thing right? Got to love our south-east as the centre of the world media.

Well, it is a pretty big place. Would you prefer it the campaign started with a page 12 column in the 'Outer Hebrides Gazette' [circulation: 2,410]?

There are likely to be more people cycling in London than any other city in the UK and are possibly a larger proportion of traffic than most towns and cities. The Times, and their journalist Mary Bowers, who was seriously injured, are based in London. As are the politicians they wish to influence. And it is the capital city... where better to start?

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posted by Simon E [1751 posts]
10th February 2012 - 17:08

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Unfortunately it's not just the city's drivers attitudes that need to be changed. going down local lane get overtaken by idiot in car who could not seem to turn that wheel in front of him to give me a bit of room, caught up with him a short time later when he was very gingerly overtaking a horse and rider. Now if he can do it for one why not the other? is it that he has been affected (afflicted?) by all this anti cycling lycra bashing in the media?

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [476 posts]
10th February 2012 - 20:19

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FATBEGGARONABIKE wrote:
is it that he has been affected (afflicted?) by all this anti cycling lycra bashing in the media?

Almost certainly. I even come across plenty of cyclists who'd rather have a seam in their trouser cutting into their perineum than wear proper cycling shorts and seem to want wasps to fly up their trouser-legs.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
10th February 2012 - 22:45

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@ Simon E. And it is the capital city... where better to start?
Capital city of where? Britain,the UK, since devolvement of Scotland and Wales, perhaps England, this green and pleasant land? I think not. Every time I have visited London I have been reminded of how little the place has in common with the "country" ie Gt Britain in which I live. It is an entity of its own having little in common with the country it is said to be the capital of. Example :- In 47yrs of commuting by bike I have never seen a cyclist ride through a red light. I rest my case. Smile

onward ever onward

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posted by bikecellar [214 posts]
10th February 2012 - 23:58

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The other day I sat in on a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) training session for LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) drivers on Driving in London, which had a cycle awareness element. As the only regular cyclist in a room of hairy a***d truck drivers, it could have been awkward, but they were a decent bunch. Two things struck me: they all had the perception that cycling was much more dangerous than I felt it was, and to a man (no women there) they were clear about the worst LGV drivers "skippers and tippers". Most professional drivers aren't out to intimidate or hurt you. Problems occur when neither side is aware of the other. As long as one person is looking and thinking, it's usually all right. Even as a cycling instructor, however, I revised my rule of thumb on how far in front of a big lorry I needed to be for them to see me. (A bike's length plus, if you're wondering.) Our main problems at the moment are that too many motorists don't cycle as well, and too many cyclists don't behave like road users. Phil Rice and Adam Smith make good points. The single simplest way to reduce the odds of a collision involving you as a cyclist is to get on-road training, however good you think you are. It's all about Positioning, Awareness and Communication. Get them right, it's a doddle. Get any of them wrong, and problems start. You'll come across bad driving (and cycling), but the trick is to know how to anticipate, avoid and cope with their behaviour, and to let it be their problem, not yours.

Utility Cyclist

posted by utility_cyclist [13 posts]
11th February 2012 - 12:37

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The campaign's aims are laudable, but I have a problem with its means and its focus on a "manifesto" of pre-decided measures that precede debate on the subject. Publishing scare-stories and thinking everything will be solved by cycle lanes is mistaken.

posted by ciclistaurbano [1 posts]
12th February 2012 - 20:19

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anyone glanced at the letter column in today's Sunday Times? Letter after letter after letter of the "cyclist's bring it on themselves" variety. I predicted that the Times Campaign would end up this way by day 10 and It seems I was a little optimistic.

I regard my self as a sensible, highway code abiding cyclist who uses Bikability principles, and I've had a car used against me as a weapon three times in three years for no reason what ever. One of them started hooting at me from the other side of a roundabout, deliberately took my exit so he could try revving, shouting and running me off the road. He did it; (failing to knock me off thankfully), turned round at the next roundabout and went back to where he was going.

Some people on the roads HATE cyclists. Its a disease in our national psyche, I truly believe that. And it starts from the belief that is endemic, that we (cyclists) deserve everything that could possibly happen to us, and it should all be at our own risk. The fact is 90% of our risk comes from people like those above. If it weren't for them, cycling would be virtually risk free.

posted by wyadvd [112 posts]
12th February 2012 - 22:15

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One small idea: the contents of ALL the 7.5 tonne trucks entering London should be unloaded at a depot onto a fleet of CARGO bikes and their payloads thus redistributed ...... any volunteers for the cargo bike riders?

posted by wyadvd [112 posts]
12th February 2012 - 22:18

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wyadvd wrote:
The fact is 90% of our risk comes from people like those above. If it weren't for them, cycling would be virtually risk free.

Unfortunately this is not true. I agree possibly 90% of the risk of collisions, but Hospital Episode Statistics tell a very different story.

http://www.hesonline.nhs.uk/Ease/servlet/ContentServer?siteID=1937&categ...

Injuries from collisions are more likely to be serious because of the higher energies involved, but larger numbers of emergency admissions to hospital beds result from non-collision cycling incidents.

Injury Prevention Manager
NHS Bristol

posted by Rob Benington [16 posts]
13th February 2012 - 14:48

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utility_cyclist wrote:
Our main problems at the moment are that too many motorists don't cycle as well, and too many cyclists don't behave like road users.

Agree.

wyadvd wrote:
Some people on the roads HATE cyclists. The fact is 90% of our risk comes from people like those above.

Three near misses in three years is 90% of your risk? (Let alone *our* risk - my experience is nothing like yours, it seems.) Really? I perceive nearly all my thrid party risk as being from non-agressive but inattentive or incompetent drivers; and there still remains first party risk, eg if I were to lose grip at speed on a wet road. Personally I think pathologically malicious road users are a minority that are statistically barely worth talking about. YMMV, clearly.

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posted by Bez [334 posts]
13th February 2012 - 15:28

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Bez wrote:
utility_cyclist wrote:
Our main problems at the moment are that too many motorists don't cycle as well, and too many cyclists don't behave like road users.

Agree.

wyadvd wrote:
Some people on the roads HATE cyclists. The fact is 90% of our risk comes from people like those above.

Three near misses in three years is 90% of your risk? (Let alone *our* risk - my experience is nothing like yours, it seems.) Really? I perceive nearly all my thrid party risk as being from non-agressive but inattentive or incompetent drivers; and there still remains first party risk, eg if I were to lose grip at speed on a wet road. Personally I think pathologically malicious road users are a minority that are statistically barely worth talking about. YMMV, clearly.

Well,

I am clearly not going to argue with the above, as we al have differing experiences. ( I work in an A and E department btw). But I have to say, I have not had any even near miss experiences caused by inattentive drivers on my mostly rural 15 mile commute. The only times I have felt genuinely in fear of my life are the three episodes where a driver was literally "out to get me" in the more urban parts of my commute, for no reason other than slowing him down by being on the road. (I guess). I can do no other than relate my experience. I can't be the only one. I think I'm pretty good at spotting the inattentive drivers waiting at junctions and will stop if necessary until I know they have seen me!Or they get a honk on my air zound.

It seems to me at least half the adverse incidents recorded by cycling cameras in urban environments by the likes of gaz and magnetom seem to be of the actively aggressive driver type.

posted by wyadvd [112 posts]
13th February 2012 - 22:28

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At the risk of raising a smile here is a combination of Bez and cycling : http://www.flickr.com/photos/44562691@N07/5977267485/

Bez-a-Go-Go.jpg

Thor

posted by Thor Beverley [47 posts]
13th February 2012 - 22:45

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