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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.