Cameron backs Times campaign, says more action needed to make cycling safer (+ video)

PM flags up recent investment, but it's a lot less than went to Cycling England, which his government axed

by Simon_MacMichael   February 22, 2012  

Cameron at PMQs (BBC)

David Cameron has today backed The Times newspaper’s Cities Fit For Cycling campaign at Prime Minister’s Questions and acknowledged that “we do need to do more to try and make cycling safer.” He left no doubt that he believes cyclists are at risk on the roads, saying that if you ride a bike, especially in major cities, “you are taking your life into your hands every time you do so.”

The Prime Minister who used to regularly ride to the Commons before coming to power, stopped short, however, of pledging any more money for cycling, instead referring to cash already pledged under existing initiatives.

Mr Cameron was responding to a question from Dr Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and who has tabled tomorrow evening’s Westminster Hall debate on cycling.

Dr Huppert asked Mr Cameron: "Tomorrow members of this House will have the chance to debate the importance of cycling, following the Times’ Cities Fit For Cycling campaign. The Minister for Cycling – the member for Lewes [Norman Baker] – has made some welcome announcements and investment. There is still much more to do.

“Will the Prime Minister commit the government to support the Times’ campaign, increase investment in cycling, and take much greater steps to promote cycling across the country?"

Mr Cameron responded: "I think The Times’ campaign is an excellent campaign. I strongly support what they’re trying to do.

“Anyone who’s got on a bicycle – particularly in one of our busier cities – knows that you are taking your life into your hands every time you do so. And so we do need to do more to try and make cycling safer.

“The government is making it easier for councils to install mirrors at junctions,” he contiued.

“We’re putting £11 million into training for children, and £15 million for better cycle routes and facilities across the country. I think if we want to encourage the growth in cycling we’ve seen in recent years, we need to get behind campaigns like this," Mr Cameron concluded.

That cumulative figure of £26 million cited by Mr Cameron in the House of Commons will be spread over more than one year and is less than half the £60 million budget that Cycling England enjoyed in 2009/10 alone, and as BikeBiz points out, it was the Coalition Government that Mr Cameron presides over that abolished that body and axed the associated funding last year.
 

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Another sound-bite from another pretendy-cyclist Tory - never mind the b*ll*cks David, where's the change we need?

posted by mad_scot_rider [546 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 16:09

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I'm not sure I agree with where this whole Times cycling campaign is heading. I've been cycling regularly on the roads for 30 years and don't feel like "I'm taking my life in my hands".

There are places where cyclists should be taken into account in road design and legislation but these are few and far between.

Having a national newspaper telling the world all cyclists are at fatal risk is really not helping anybody (other than those who want an excuse to get us off the roads onto farcilities)

posted by bobbypuk [16 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 16:15

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All mouth and no trousers.

Anyone going on the Westminster ride tonight? I would like to think that the momentum is maintained. A press campaign and a series of protest rides will keep the pressure on the government. The spring is coming.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 16:36

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bobbypuk wrote:
... don't feel like "I'm taking my life in my hands".

No, I feel like I'm putting it into the hands of people who are impatient, aggressive, unwilling to obey traffic law, and intentionally distracting themselves from the task of driving with mobile phones, books, delivery checklists and god alone knows what else. People who don't feel the need to consider cyclists, whether at motion (as they pass, for example) or at rest (when they park blocking entry/exit to cycle paths). Not all drivers are like this, but enough are to make commuter cycling a nervy, edgy sort of affair of very limited appeal.

Cycling happens in the UK despite our road culture, I feel, not because of it.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [420 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 16:42

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Bobbypuke - I'll concur with your first and third comments, you are certainly entitled not to feel threatened personally when cycling and you are almost certainly not alone in being a confident cyclist who presumably weighs the risks and finds them within acceptable limits.

I think you are right also to say that a campaign like this isn't really helping, at least if it misleads people into thinking cycling is more dangerous than it really is - one of the arguments often made against the promotion of, and perhaps one day compulsion to wear, helmets and high-vis. Riding a bicycle on a road is arguably safer per mile than walking alongside it, and safer per hour than many sports including football.

I have to demur on the middle comment though. By no means everyone is persuaded of the relative safety of cycling in the UK, and therefore they do not cycle, where they might do were the roads to be subjectively safer.

I can personally think of one group of road environments where cyclists and pedestrians need not be considered in their design: roads from which cyclists and pedestrians are explicitly prohibited, eg motorways, some toll routes and some bridges and tunnels. Even there, attention needs to be paid to the safety of motorists-turned-pedestrians eg where they have broken down and are walking to the nearest emergency phone.

Otherwise, EVERY SINGLE road in the UK should have cyclists and pedestrians FULLY taken into account throughout their design. Road engineers today actually do a good job in surveying a road's geography and matching it to reported and projected usage stats to produce a workable design. The reason they don't work at all for cyclists and pedestrians is simply that these are excluded from the design brief from the very start, and if ever included, only as an afterthought.

posted by Paul M [309 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 16:51

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Well said, John_the_Monkey and Paul M.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 17:51

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To have a campaign that projects cycling more dangerous than it really is, is actually good..

Because in the end there will be compromise, therefore its better so set hairy goals that are compromised into alright results, instead of setting alright goals that are compromised into poor results.

I think its good that the PM at least is aware the campaign. Hopefully there will be room in the deficit to do some improvement too!

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posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 21:08

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bobbypuk wrote:
I'm not sure I agree with where this whole Times cycling campaign is heading. I've been cycling regularly on the roads for 30 years and don't feel like "I'm taking my life in my hands".

It very much depends where and when you cycle, if you're hardened to it, and aren't easily put off. I have neighbours that will cycle on the pavement, in a relatively ok bit of surrey. Tho' on the other hand, a postie lost his lower leg when a van wiped him up the side of some parked vehicles outside the local shops. It's also easy to live in ignorance if you can't see behind you easily - riding a recumbent I pretty much have to use a helmet mirror, and see all sorts of faffing about behind me. To use another's phrase - I have become more edgy as a result, and not without reason.

bobbypuk wrote:

There are places where cyclists should be taken into account in road design and legislation but these are few and far between.

Really ? That sounds like Boris' bluster over negotiating Bow (?) roundabout. There's certainly some nasty gyratories/junctions in London, and I can easily think of some in Birmingham (where I'm from) and also local to me that you really are taking your life in your hands to get through - some fast roundabouts in particular. And that's as someone getting up to a decent speed. For someone that's slower they're even more of a nightmare.

bobbypuk wrote:

Having a national newspaper telling the world all cyclists are at fatal risk is really not helping anybody (other than those who want an excuse to get us off the roads onto farcilities)

Well, I agree to a degree, but if helps get it into someone's head in Government that something needs to happen...I view the current discussion as a starting point - I just hope it doesn't end there, but it's a waste of time being cynical about it, IMO.

To put it another way.
Has cycling been much of a topic for discussion in Government over the last 30 or so years? If so, I must have blinked and missed it.

posted by JonD [180 posts]
23rd February 2012 - 3:38

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