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Veteran presenter mulls over the implications of London's most recent cycle death...

Veteran BBC broadcaster John Humphrys has weighed into the cycle safety debate in the wake of the death of a London cyclists outside the Olympic Park.

In an article entitled Cycling: Do we take it seriously enough? the Today programme and Mastermind host lit the touchpaper with the question 'who's to blame?'

After mulling over the views of motorists vs. cyclists, he then threw caution to the wind and entered the helmet debate, saying:

"After all, motorcyclists have been compelled to wear helmets for the last forty years or so.

"There seems to be no logic behind forcing one group of road users to wear helmets and not the other.

"It’s true that motorcyclists are likely to be travelling much faster when they have an accident and so risk greater injury to their brains if they are not wearing a helmet.

"But cyclists, riding at slower speeds, can still suffer fatal brain damage."

It's not Humphry's first foray into cycle safety (click here to see him take on shoddy supermarket flat-pack bikes) but he may find himself surprised at the strength of feeling in the community about the issue.

Or maybe not. He writes:

"Cyclists complain that motorists drive too fast, that they are too careless and that they often simply fail to see cyclists before it is too late to avoid an accident.

"Motorists complain that some cyclists seem to think they own the road, ignoring traffic lights, swarming round slow-moving cars and recklessly cutting in on the inside of traffic.

"Too many of them seem to think they don’t need to have lights at night. Accidents seem inevitable."

Humphrys is not the first broadcast star to become involved in cycle safety talk either; Jon Snow, Channel 4 news anchor and CTC President addressed Parliament earlier this year about the lack of provision for cyclists in the UK.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

59 comments

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1961BikiE [189 posts] 3 years ago
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I can't even be bothered anymore.  14

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AWPeleton [3263 posts] 3 years ago
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The thing is though that cycling needs well known and publicly liked people to enter the discussion and offer their personal assessment otherwise it will be forever argued over on forum sites and one day the Govt at the time will make a knee jerk reaction and come up with some stupid legislation.

As long as the discussion is helpful and shows facts rather than hearsay then it can only help in the long run.

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WolfieSmith [1307 posts] 3 years ago
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Falling off a bike you cannot legislate for. Getting hit by a car travelling over 30mph in a 30 mph zone can be legislated. Helmets aren't the real issue - speed is. According to one study there is a death rate for pedestrians of 5% when struck by a car travelling at 20mph versus 45% at 30mph. I would imagine the cyclist figures to be broadly concurrent.

Helmets are a side show. The real elephant in the room is speed. Slowing traffic makes sense but not to politicians or local councillors as it doesn't boost votes. This island is too small and broke to engineer separate roads for bikes and cars but until speed is reduced sharing will not happen without more preventable fatalities - helmets or no helmets.

I wish cyclists would stop getting distracted by the side issues and back the '20
Is Plenty' campaign.

Smoking in pubs, seatbelts, drink driving. All delt with. Speed reduction is the key here.

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Kingy [11 posts] 3 years ago
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Having been knocked off by a hit and run driver,change is needed too many motorists do not know the law when passing cyclist education and clarity is needed on the other hand group riding not alot of cosideration is given to drivers faults on both parties but clarity is needed

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bikeandy61 [524 posts] 3 years ago
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When you bring up the speed issue the claim is that speed doesn't contribute to accidents. I have to say to a degree I agree. But as raised above it is survivability that speed affects. Even inside a metal box with seat belts, air bags etc as speed gets higher injury rates will increase. For pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists the effect of speed on their outcome from an accident that effect is multiplied massively. The helmet debate is a red herring imho.

The problem when high profile people get involved in the discussion is they either spout personal opinion, are ignorant or are asked the question out of context and often provide a poorly considered reply.

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mrhallorann [16 posts] 3 years ago
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What MercuryOne said.

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ColT [280 posts] 3 years ago
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Sorry to split hairs, but it's not speed that is the problem, per se. It's too much speed at inappropriate times. I don't want drivers to simply slow down; I want them to think about *why* they should slow down. Setting a lower speed limit simply takes away another decision for a driver. Even 20mph may well be too high in some circumstances. A good analogy is drivers giving a signal, whatever the circumstances, rather than checking whether there is actually someone around who will benefit from the signal. It's about driver attitude towards other road users, especially cyclists, but it's very difficult to tell someone that s/he is a bad driver.

It put it better here:

http://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/sex-politics-relig...

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Ush [641 posts] 3 years ago
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MercuryOne has identified the real problem.

Why do Humphrys, Wiggins and others insist on ignoring this and concentrate on recommending an unproven, pseudo-safety device?

I look forward to seeing Mr. Humphrys in his motorcycle helmet and full leathers...

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ratherbeintobago [29 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

Why do Humphrys, Wiggins and others insist on ignoring this and concentrate on recommending an unproven, pseudo-safety device?

Because it appears to make sense. The problem is that, like a lot of things that make sense, the evidence just isn't there for a safety benefit.

Having said this, I always wear a helmet on the bike, but I do feel it should be a personal choice.

Andy

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WolfieSmith [1307 posts] 3 years ago
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I realise that 20mph is a pain in the arse when driving. I don't foresee making most residential areas 20mph zones actually slowing motorists to 20mph. Unfortunately after 50 years of social drift the 30mph limit actually means 35-40mph to over 60% of drivers. I hope 20mph limits will instead slow people to 25mph-30mph as the death rate at speeds below 30mph - for all concerned - is far less.

Once everyone is used to travelling more slowly more people will get back on bikes.

The funny thing is all local councils now have the power to set such limits without permission from the DoT. It's within our grasp to pressure this change through town by town and get our kids back on bikes to school.

Brad Wiggins needs to push' 20 is plenty' and as his wife Cath is a member is our club I shall be putting it to the power behind the throne.  4

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chain_link [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Good, we can save hundred of lives and make motorists and their passengers wear helmets.

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uksportives [25 posts] 3 years ago
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Its simple to solve for the future...

Start laying dedicated roads for Bikes Today, just like we did when the Motor Car was invented, and the train, so why not Cycles..

People would flock to the cycle roads (Paying for it, well that's another discussion)..

This would provide harmony safe and Pure common sense amongst this non stop divide between cyclist and Motorist..

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giff77 [1217 posts] 3 years ago
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+1 with MercuryOne on both posts. The helmet debate is a red herring. Until central and local government legislate the protection of vulnerable road users and NOT by demanding that they dress in fluorescent colours and wear various types of body armour then our roads will continue to generate fatalities. We all know that the majority of collisions will have been caused by speed and commonsense tell us that slowing down will reduce the risk to all. The recent research in Scotland regards speed cameras proves this. In a nutshell SLOW DOWN!!

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OldRidgeback [2565 posts] 3 years ago
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Thing is, when you do drive at 20mph along a road with speedbumps (and that's as fast as you want to) there's always some numpty coming up behind tailgating because he/she wants to get past. My own street has speedbumps and it's residential, so 20 is plenty. But the other week I had some loon tailgating and flashing his lights behind me because he clearly thought it was ok to go faster. As he was so close, I slowed down to reduce the potential impact damage in the event of an incident.

In his case, and in those of many others I've seen, education is the key.

Cycling into the centre of London this week I was struck by how empty of cars the streets are. These Olympics are really good for cycling across the city. That still didn't stop me and my wife from having yet another loon zoom past with only cm to spare.

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Guy Chapman [9 posts] 3 years ago
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Does anyone have to be to blame? Sometimes shit happens.

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paulfrank [94 posts] 3 years ago
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20 is plenty in some places, all road users need education, however on the British road system as it is if you haven't got lights on your bike and your not wearing a helmet then you are stupid. I know it won't stop every death but it gives you a fighting chance.

Now here come all the helmet haters.  37

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Campag_10 [153 posts] 3 years ago
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John Humphrys should stick to what he's good at - asking questions - to get some facts to support his assertions.

There have historically been high numbers of single vehicle motorcycle accidents where excessive speed has been the factor. In collisions involving cyclists it's a mix of excessive speed, driver inattention and vehicle design (blind spots).

We could compensate for vehicle blind spots with better training/education, but the best way forward in countering the other two is lower speeds.

The one remaining issue will be collisions between motorised vehicles and cyclists on country roads.

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giff77 [1217 posts] 3 years ago
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Guy. Shit does not have to happen. As road users we all have a responsibility to drive/cycle within our abilities, keep our speed down, beaware of other road users and hazzards. As a driver I see other drivers charge along the motorway in poor visability and over surface water at excess speeds. These same drivers hurtle along narrow country roads withiut thought that there may be pedestrians, livestock or a cyclist round the next blind corner. Theey also race along our urban roads at speeds of 50mph instead of 30mph

As a cyclist I see other cyclists rlj'ing. Weaving along the road unconcerned about what's behind them. Using pavements. Cycling without lights.

If a little common sence and road craft was applied by all then this shit will never need to happen

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adriank999 [77 posts] 3 years ago
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I've just ordered a helmet cam. I'm thinking of painting a camera logo on my reflective jacket, it just might make the idiots and the careless think a little.

I drive also drive a camper van and I bet I infuriate some drivers on country roads because I always try to drive at a speed that would let me brake safely if I come across a cyclist on a bend. It’s a bit wide to be able to overtake a bike safely if there is something coming the other way. I also give cyclists a very wide berth when overtaking, I don’t know how much draught is created by my van but again I am amazed how many motorists only pull out a foot or so to overtake a bike even when there is nothing coming the other way.

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Municipal Waste [238 posts] 3 years ago
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If everyone who walked, cycled, drove, or rode a horse on the public road did so in the manner in which the Highway Code suggests then we'd probably all be much safer.

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notfastenough [3665 posts] 3 years ago
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Sorry but I disagree with widespread 20mph speed limits. On the surface it sounds fine, but ultimately everyone is trying to get somewhere, and ever-lower blanket speed limits just serve to frustrate people, and they over-compensate by driving like maniacs once they think they can get away with it. Driver education and a cultural shift, although more difficult, are IMHO, a better way forward.

As for the helmet debate, ISTR there was a case in the US where a cyclist failed to claim 'no fault' because, while they couldn't help being hit by a car, they were judged to have not taken reasonable precautions against injury due to not wearing a helmet; hence joint liability for the head injuries sustained. I don't think it's unreasonable to think the same thing could happen here.

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AWPeleton [3263 posts] 3 years ago
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Can someone in a commonsense way explain why it is NOT a good idea to wear a helmet without spouting facts and figures about their effectiveness.

In my humble opinion the wearing of a helmet is common sense. It wont stop you from getting hit or knocked off but it MAY save you getting your head bounced about, which seems a sensible thing.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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You've rejigged a few things and are.asking the question in a loaded manner. I don't think anyone is saying that you should not wear a helmet or that wearing a helmet is a bad thing, what people don't want is to be told "you should be forced, by law and at risk of punishment, to wear a helmet. The arguments regarding their effectiveness only get brought in to counter the reasoning of "but you might get hit by a car".

It's like rationalising drive by shootings by saying you should be forced, by law and at risk of punishment, to be wear a bullet proof vest.

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badbadleroybrown [17 posts] 3 years ago
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Anyone stupid enough to call a helmet an 'unproven, pseudo-safety device' should not be made to wear one... the real issue isn't speeds or safe driving, it's that there are people out there who are that stupid reproducing. I encourage everyone who doubts helmets to ride without them... ride quickly among traffic and on dangerous roads. Hopefully, natural selection will weed out some of you fools.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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"i disagree with your viewpoint, however valid it may be, so I hope you are killed".

What a marvellous way thinking, there should be more people like you in the world, spreading sunlight wherever you go.

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paulfg42 [385 posts] 3 years ago
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It really is a shoddy article with driver behaviour glossed over.

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PhilRuss [370 posts] 3 years ago
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Kingy wrote:

Having been knocked off by a hit and run driver,change is needed too many motorists do not know the law when passing cyclist education and clarity is needed on the other hand group riding not alot of cosideration is given to drivers faults on both parties but clarity is needed

[[[[[[[ Huh? So is punctuation....
P.R.

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Paul J [861 posts] 3 years ago
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In dense urban areas, cars already average 20mph or less anyway, because of junctions, street layout and regular traffic lights. Many road cyclists will already know this, from seeing the same cars at light after light - sometimes even leaving them behind.

E.g. I average about 25km/h commuting - including time stopped at lights - which is about the same speed as cars manage through Glasgow city. I've seen the same cars even after *10km* of cycling, on roads where traffic is flowing.

So, please tell me, what is the point of allowing cars to hit peak speeds of 48km/h (30 mph) when they're only going average 20 to 30 km/h (12 to 18mph) anyway? Those high peak speeds only buy the car driver extra time sitting at lights - no significant effect on journey time. However, they significantly the risks to the pedestrians and cyclists who must share those roads. Why is that acceptable?

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Campag_10 [153 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm a pragmatist and will do what's necessary to ensure my own survival. I think the best self-defence against inattentive and foolish road behaviour is to be aware and anticipate hazards.

The barrier to be overcome is driver perception and attitude. Drivers don't want to mow down cyclists, they just want to get from A to B quickly and act in their own self-interest. As we know, they are irrationally impatient in their haste to overtake cyclists, however, will sit in a trance at traffic signals whilst the cyclist catches them up (and maybe filters past to the white line at the front of the queue).

When you read the Highway Code, it refers to cyclists as vulnerable road users (rule 163). The challenge we face wearing helmets and high viz clothing, is that what we wear evokes images of elite athletes in the public's perception, which contradicts the notion of vulnerability.

Likewise, John Franklin's 'Cyclecraft' promotes a robust approach to 'negotiating' with motorised traffic – a logical consequence of our car-centric society, but one that only works for the most athletic minority of potential cyclists.

One of the best concepts I've come across in promoting active travel is the 8-80 principle – any road layout design should be equally effective for all road users between the ages of 8 and 80.

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drheaton [3318 posts] 3 years ago
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Why is it always the drivers fault?

Sensible precautions (helmets and hig-vis clothing) will help a cyclist be seen and be safe, there is no reason other than personal choice no to take these precautions. If you don't want to wear high-vis clothing don't, but don't then blame a driver for not being able to see you if they legitimately can't, not through inattentiveness or poor driving but through your own poor visibility.

Drivers aren't evil, in fact some of them are even cyclists too  13 Until we stop just knee-jerk blaming drivers for every problem and take some of the responsibility on ourselves for our own safety then no-body is going to listen. In fact, I don't think I can be bothered to listen to the 'it's all the motorists fault that cyclists get knocked off/injured/killed' anymore and I cycle, how do you think politician's feel? Blaming motorists helps no-one, personal responsibility and co-operation will be what fixes the problems.

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