Norman Baker: Would-be cyclists are put off by safety concerns

Also cited poor British weather and bike maintenance worries as reasons not to cycle

by Sarah Barth   September 25, 2012  

Norman Baker.jpg

Innumerable would-be cyclists are put off riding on the roads due to safety concerns, the Transport Minister Norman Baker has said.

Lib Dem MP Baker, who is responsible for cycling, has pointed out that although 43 per cent of people have a bike, only 2 per cent ride with any regularity.

Speaking to The Times, he said: “There are a number of complicated reasons for that. Partly it is about people not feeling safe on the roads out there where they want to cycle.”

Safety was the main concern he said, followed by lack of bike maintenance knowledge and the British weather.

He said: “I think the answer is a delicate balance to try to make sure that we do address genuine safety issues … and at the same time as identifying serious safety problems not putting people off but encouraging them to be out there cycling and to recognise that statistically it is quite safe to be out on the road cycling,” Mr Baker said.

“I don’t think it is a dangerous activity, particularly if they have good training.”

Yesterday at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, the party called for a dramatic expansion of a 20mph speed limit in the UK.

Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Transport, Julian Huppert said: “Liberal Democrats have been leading the way on road safety. In Lib Dem-led councils, local speed limits of 20mph have proven successful in reducing the number of pedestrian deaths on our roads.

“Moving towards a national 20mph limit in residential areas is the right thing to do to further lower our road fatality rate and it is clear the public are backing this approach.”

Reason cited for the move included:

- Among member states of the EU, the UK has the highest proportion of pedestrian road fatalities, and half of road deaths and serious injuries in Britain occur on roads with 30 mph limits.

- Among member states of the EU, the UK has one of the poorest levels of children walking or cycling to school and many parents cite danger from fast traffic as a reason for not allowing their children to travel to school on foot or by bike.

- Lowering the normal residential speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph would make roads safer; in particular a study by the Transport Research Laboratory has found 20 mph limits decrease child pedestrian accidents by 70%.

- The greater safety of 20 mph is well demonstrated in insurance premiums being less in areas with a significant number of 20 mph limits.

- Road injuries are hugely expensive: the Department for Transport estimates that the average cost per seriously injured casualty on the roads is £178,160 and the average cost per fatality is £1,585,510.

- The relatively small cost of changing speed limits (e.g. new signage) pays for itself many times over by preventing costly accidents.

18 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

On bike maintenance: dérailleurs and rim brakes are both awfully fragile and maintenance intensive things. In the Netherlands the majority of utility bikes have 3-speed hub gears and drum brakes - working parts nicely sealed away. I wonder if they know anything.

Getting rid of the dérailleur also allows for proper chain enclosures, so your clothes don't get oily.

E.g.: http://www.batavus.nl/collectie/fietsencollectie/stadsfietsen/modellen-2...

posted by Paul J [649 posts]
25th September 2012 - 10:36

0 Likes

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-19710937

Article on bbc about head cam cyclist, showing some of his near misses. Essex police comment that they have seen some footage but haven't seen any evidence of any offences being committed. Texting in a car is illegal (perhaps not when stationary at lights?). The car overtaking then turning off is probably not more than frustrating but the coach pass is surely dangerous.

Perhaps if proposed changes to the law making careless driving punishable by fixed penalty notices come in the police will be able to deal with some of these events more easily. Then maybe they can go about their proper business of making the roads safer for all.
http://road.cc/content/news/64204-new-police-powers-tighten-low-level-ca...

posted by horizontal dropout [154 posts]
25th September 2012 - 12:25

1 Like

Would- be cyclists are also put off by morons like the columnist in the Telegraph.

Her teeth need fixing - probably because of all the poisonous bile that comes out.

Texting while at the wheel can be illegal even if the car is stationary at traffic lights. It depends on whether the engine is running and the vehicle is in gear.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2244 posts]
25th September 2012 - 13:14

0 Likes

Quote:
Article on bbc about head cam cyclist, showing some of his near misses. Essex police comment that they have seen some footage but haven't seen any evidence of any offences being committed.

Most cars will have these cameras fairly soon. In Taiwan, many already do. Insurance companies value the evidence. I wonder if they'd also value the ability to raise premiums of those filmed driving like idiots? No idea if this is possible, but if so, I'm sure they would.

posted by james-o [205 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:30

4 Likes

james-o wrote:
Quote:
Article on bbc about head cam cyclist, showing some of his near misses. Essex police comment that they have seen some footage but haven't seen any evidence of any offences being committed.

Most cars will have these cameras fairly soon. In Taiwan, many already do. Insurance companies value the evidence. I wonder if they'd also value the ability to raise premiums of those filmed driving like idiots? No idea if this is possible, but if so, I'm sure they would.

Funnily enough I was just thinking the same thing yesterday after a coach and car passed waaay too close for comfort on my ride to work… maybe a website should gather all this stuff together so it's easy for insurance companies to find.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4150 posts]
25th September 2012 - 15:49

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Paul J wrote:
On bike maintenance: dérailleurs and rim brakes are both awfully fragile and maintenance intensive things. In the Netherlands the majority of utility bikes have 3-speed hub gears and drum brakes - working parts nicely sealed away. I wonder if they know anything.

The difficulty in doing so is that the majority of hub gear systems don't allow for a very large range without being 'expensive'.
I also remember when Trek released the Soho all people did was complain that the front Shimano drum brake was under-powered.

I think there are 2 other serious things which put people off cycling:

1 - Having to carry a big lock with you in order that your bike is still there when you get back (plus even then wondering whether some idiot has kicked in your back wheel) or having to use a cheaper bike than you would like because of security.

2 - If your ride is over say, 5 miles then you are likely to want to have a change of clothes and maybe even a shower. Hardly any workplaces have provision for this and so it remains out of the question.

Sadly regarding the 20mph speed limits the petrol-head in me is at odds with the cyclist. That said for someone who enjoys driving so much I'm probably in a minority of people which actually drive at 30mph (sometimes LESS!) when that is the speed limit. If there was a statistic for how many people get injured by cars when everyone obeyed the rules I'd put money on it being more effective than a lower limit alone. Sad

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
25th September 2012 - 16:03

1 Like

When a pro Team bus drives in this way what hope is there?

P9140068.JPG
Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [115 posts]
25th September 2012 - 16:42

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Municipal: Range, at least in the sense of the highest and lowest ratios, isn't the problem. You're thinking of hub gears targeted mostly at the Anglo-Saxon cycle-enthusiast market. Those hub gears are trying to replicate dérailleurs in terms of range in the number of gears sense (to allow for closely-spaced ratios) - that is indeed difficult.

But a utility cyclist generally doesn't need 10+ gears. The bikes in the Netherlands generally have 3 speed hub gears. One ultra-low gear, a normal gear for getting around, and a high gear.

Re the lock: If you look really really carefully at the Batavus bike I linked to, it has an integrated wheel lock (look at the seatstay) . Wink

Re changing clothes: You're thinking like a british cycling enthusiast. Normal people do not change their clothes to cycle about town, at least not in the Netherlands (and to be fair, a significant number of city cyclists in Glasgow aren't wearing cycle specific clothes either).

posted by Paul J [649 posts]
25th September 2012 - 16:44

1 Like

Glad you noticed Paul J On Sunday it was de rigeur in Harris Tweed.

Part of the success of Boris Bikes is that you get a working one when you need it - no need to maintain it etc.

Another part is that you can take or leave the bike as needed. This is reflected in a project to make cycle carriage in taxis more widely available - without the driver complaining/refusing because the bike is dirty - or just because it is a bike. Same deal applies to taking a bike on a bus tram or train (common detail outside UK, and a real integrated transport system)

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [495 posts]
25th September 2012 - 17:58

1 Like

Thanks to Norman baker for spelling out the fscking obvious - tomorrows press release informs us that everyone has a hole in their arse!

Frivolity over - What do you plan on doing about it Norman, or are you going to continue the current strategy of bugger all?

posted by gazza_d [235 posts]
25th September 2012 - 18:41

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Paul J wrote:
On bike maintenance: dérailleurs and rim brakes are both awfully fragile and maintenance intensive things. In the Netherlands the majority of utility bikes have 3-speed hub gears and drum brakes - working parts nicely sealed away. I wonder if they know anything.

"Awfully fragile" rather overstates the case (7 speed systems in particular seem to last forever) - in the UK at least, the derailleur and rim brake at least has the advantage of being readily available, and easily fixed by any bike shop you wander into, or by you if you've a mind to.

From later posts, the wheel lock (I think we call them nurse's locks, for reasons probably lost in the mists of time) works in Belgium & NL because these bikes are *EVERYWHERE*. After all, there's very little point in nicking something everyone has, and that little bit of deterrent from the wheel lock is probably enough. Here, using that alone would see your bike spirited away by an enterprising type with a van.

Saying that, once we have roads that will permit a more gentle pottering, in clothes one has to worry about getting oily, I suspect we'll see more Dutch bikes around, personally.

But this is fluff - people don't cycle in the UK because too many drivers don't give a sh*t about your safety. Among the hardy souls that do dust off the bike in summer, how many bin it because a bus tries to overtake them by a traffic island? Or when Mr Toad decides to tailgate them up to a red light, leaning on his horn all the way? Baker, as minister for the bits of transport successive governments have failed to give a toss about, will do little meaningful about this, I fear.

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

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
25th September 2012 - 18:44

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Paul J wrote:

Getting rid of the dérailleur also allows for proper chain enclosures, so your clothes don't get oily.

+1 but the problem is that people in this country are so ignorant that they prefer full suspension and 30 gears to this sort of pracitcality - that and they've been led to believe they shouldn't have to pay more than 100 quid.

Hopefully Boris bikes go some way to change this but it will take some time.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
25th September 2012 - 19:10

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I would have to agree,

I commute into Sheffield daily and it really does take a lot of courage to take to the roads and ride into the city. Daily I have to encounter bumpy, pot hole ridden roads, tram tracks, roundabouts, crossing both lanes of a dual carriageway. None but the dual carriageway (Penistone Road) have any cycle provision, but this is woefully bad and basically just a few repainted strips of pavement.

I am actually lucky as I enter the city from the north which is relatively unpopulated and hence there are not too many congested roads with parked cars to navigate. Some colleagues of mine come in from the west which is an even worse situation regarding the quality of roads and parked cars.

Whenever I talk to anyone (who doesn't already) about commuting into the city inevitably the first response I hear is that it's not safe.

And when I stop to think about it, considering the lane crossing, pot holes, tram tracks, roundabouts that are involved - not to mention the rain and dark - it really does take a lot of courage and confidence to be able to navigate the roads.

posted by p3k4y [1 posts]
25th September 2012 - 20:52

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Err, rim brakes and derailliuer gears are neither inherently fragile nor maintenance intensive. They're also quite simple.

Maybe you had the wrong ones?

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2244 posts]
25th September 2012 - 21:24

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TheHatter wrote:
Paul J wrote:

Getting rid of the dérailleur also allows for proper chain enclosures, so your clothes don't get oily.

+1 but the problem is that people in this country are so ignorant that they prefer full suspension and 30 gears to this sort of pracitcality - that and they've been led to believe they shouldn't have to pay more than 100 quid.

Hopefully Boris bikes go some way to change this but it will take some time.

Most people will be starting out with the bike they have in their shed, or with something they can pick up easily and cheaply. Relatively few will want to commit the cash required to buy a Dutch city bike in the UK, and that doesn't make them daft.

I'm not sure that placing another barrier "You need to spend X on a city bike" is any more helpful than someone trying to upsell them a crabon wonder machine & full team kit because they're riding on a road.

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

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
26th September 2012 - 10:17

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Paul J wrote:
Municipal: Range, at least in the sense of the highest and lowest ratios, isn't the problem. You're thinking of hub gears targeted mostly at the Anglo-Saxon cycle-enthusiast market. Those hub gears are trying to replicate dérailleurs in terms of range in the number of gears sense (to allow for closely-spaced ratios) - that is indeed difficult.

But a utility cyclist generally doesn't need 10+ gears. The bikes in the Netherlands generally have 3 speed hub gears. One ultra-low gear, a normal gear for getting around, and a high gear.

Re the lock: If you look really really carefully at the Batavus bike I linked to, it has an integrated wheel lock (look at the seatstay) . Wink

Re changing clothes: You're thinking like a british cycling enthusiast. Normal people do not change their clothes to cycle about town, at least not in the Netherlands (and to be fair, a significant number of city cyclists in Glasgow aren't wearing cycle specific clothes either).

Paul J: Range in terms of the highest and lowest gear is pretty important if the customer/commuter lives in a town with big hills. . . Especially to people who haven't otherwise done much exercise.
That said on the subject of gears, a LOT of people I meet haven't a clue how to use a 3x5/6/7/8/9/10/11 drivetrain properly anyway Wink

The Dutch bike style wheel lock is fine for your 5 second dash into the newsagent, but it isn't going to keep your bike safe for a whole day.

Clothing wise, with nearly all of the people I know living in a different town than they work in maybe we're talking about another breed of commuter. What goes in the cities probably is rather different to smaller towns.

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
26th September 2012 - 15:28

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Municipal Waste wrote:
Paul J wrote:
Municipal: Range, at least in the sense of the highest and lowest ratios, isn't the problem. You're thinking of hub gears targeted mostly at the Anglo-Saxon cycle-enthusiast market. Those hub gears are trying to replicate dérailleurs in terms of range in the number of gears sense (to allow for closely-spaced ratios) - that is indeed difficult.

But a utility cyclist generally doesn't need 10+ gears. The bikes in the Netherlands generally have 3 speed hub gears. One ultra-low gear, a normal gear for getting around, and a high gear.

Re the lock: If you look really really carefully at the Batavus bike I linked to, it has an integrated wheel lock (look at the seatstay) . Wink

Re changing clothes: You're thinking like a british cycling enthusiast. Normal people do not change their clothes to cycle about town, at least not in the Netherlands (and to be fair, a significant number of city cyclists in Glasgow aren't wearing cycle specific clothes either).

Paul J: Range in terms of the highest and lowest gear is pretty important if the customer/commuter lives in a town with big hills. . . Especially to people who haven't otherwise done much exercise.
That said on the subject of gears, a LOT of people I meet haven't a clue how to use a 3x5/6/7/8/9/10/11 drivetrain properly anyway Wink

I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to explain how to use deraillieur gears to people, my wife included. "But why do they fit 21 gears if you're only supposed to use 15 at most?"

Since her mountain bike is never used off road I really think her next bike would be better with just 5 gears, like we had in the old days. Most riders would have enough ratios with just five gears.

Hub gears are less efficient mechanically and are heavier. They do score well in terms of reliability but when they go wrong (and they do) they are difficult to repair. Deraillieurs are more efficient and while they may be fiddly in a way that defeats some people, they're repaired far more easily and cheaply. You can do a roadside repair on a deraillieur, but try doing that on a hub gear.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2244 posts]
27th September 2012 - 9:10

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OldRidgeback wrote:

I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to explain how to use deraillieur gears to people, my wife included. "But why do they fit 21 gears if you're only supposed to use 15 at most?"

Since her mountain bike is never used off road I really think her next bike would be better with just 5 gears, like we had in the old days. Most riders would have enough ratios with just five gears.


Mrs M's bike has a seven speed cassette and single chainring up front (on a fairly upright city bike style frame). I know the Edinburgh Bike Co-Op's "Courier" range of cheap-ish hybrids have a single chainring up front too.

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

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
28th September 2012 - 12:02

1 Like