Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says cyclists must "do their bit" on road safety

Yesterday's speech shows a week is a long time in politics after Labour's Maria Eagle had made cycle safety a central issue

by Simon_MacMichael   October 9, 2012  

Patrick McLoughlin (picture Conservative Party)

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has told the Conservative Party Conference that cyclists “need to do their bit” in ensuring roads become safer. His remarks come a week after his shadow cabinet counterpart, Maria Eagle, urged the government to implement the manifesto of The Times newspaper’s Cities Fit For Cycling campaign.

"This was the summer that Britain got cycling,” said Mr McLoughlin, after highlighting the Olympics as a major project that Britain had delivered. "The number of people cycling is soaring, but the number of accidents has gone up too. We've got to change that.

"We've got to build safety into our roads for everyone that means better design and better education too because this isn't just about getting motorists to take care, it is also about getting cyclists to do their bit too."

Those words drew loud applause from the audience, but Mr McLoughlin didn’t elaborate on what, exactly, he expected cyclists to do.

Nor was there the commitment to Cities Fit For Cycling that Ms Eagle had urged, still less any talk of what the government could do to address the situation.

That was it, as far as cycling was concerned.

Instead, his speech focused on broader transport issues as well as specific projects such as HS2, the need for a new airport in the South East and investment on alleviating pinch points on major roads.

Mr McLoughlin outlined what he described as “an outstanding programme to get Britain up to speed” including “greater investment in our roads.”

He described his job as being “to reduce the hassle of getting around,” adding, “I’m ambitious about transport because I’m ambitious about Britain. Transport is the artery of any economy.

"It gets people to work, children to school, food to shops. Everyone depends on it, every day. When transport slows, everything slows. When transport stops, everything stops.”

In a parallel universe, that might have been a lead-in to a promise of huge investment in cycling as a safe means of everyday transport, one that doesn’t slow down and stop and allows people to get on with their daily business, a change of approach similar to those that transformed the Netherlands and Denmark from the 1970s onwards.

Back in Birmingham in 2012, however, there was little prospect of that happening.

Mr McLoughlin went on: “So how do we fix it? My answer in three words: invest in infrastructure.

“Our competitors around the world are investing in transport and we must too. No big infrastructure project is done without controversy, but once they are built people rely on them.

"We need better roads too, to keep car, trucks and buses moving. Let's face it, we've underinvested as a country for years. There is too much congestion. Not enough new schemes. It's madness and we're going to get it sorted out.

"You can't just click your fingers to solve it [transport problems]. You need to think big and hold your nerve for decades."

He concluded: "We will get Britain moving again."

34 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

"Oi! You lot on the push bikes. Do your bit and stop getting run over. Perhaps you should just leave the bike at home. That way cycling fatalities will drop dramatically. Thanks awfully."

What a prat.

posted by Coleman [330 posts]
9th October 2012 - 10:27


I do my bit for road safety every day.

It involves this clever system whereby I somehow survive the daily examples of motorists driving dangerously, carelessly or aggressively, jumping lights, texting and speeding.

My clever system for avoiding all this carnage may occasionally involve some of my own rule breaking...

posted by crazy-legs [618 posts]
9th October 2012 - 11:14

1 Like

He's fatter and older than the photo at the top!

posted by Sandy_l [25 posts]
9th October 2012 - 11:18



Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
9th October 2012 - 11:20


It's the Tory conference. They hate te gays, cyclists and foreigns in hats, and their big preoccupations are inheritance tax, the right to shoot burglars and the menace of speed cameras.

It's not an insane point: a proportion of people on bikes get run over because they're too daft to have lights, or because they cycle on the wrong side of the road, or talk on their phones while cycling on the wrong side of the road with no lights. It happens, and if you could stop it, you'd reduce cycle casualties (a bit). But it's basically like promising to reduce government expenditure by "clamping down on waste". It's easy to say but essentially impossible to achieve because the people you're trying to change aren't listening. So it's not really a policy as such, it's just noise...

posted by BigDummy [309 posts]
9th October 2012 - 11:51


It all goes round and round but to be honest, he kind of has a point. There is some shocking cycling on UK roads, I mean really poor, to the point at which as I driver as well as a cyclist I am beginning to see how the view points about "cyclists needing to do their bit" comes about.

I live in cambridge, and the general level of cycling proficiency is so low, that no matter how carefully I drive (taking into account that a poor cyclist may do anything at any time), I am still afraid that one day I will be involved in an accident with a cyclist which I had no chance of avoiding (for example the guys who run the blind set of red lights at the end of my road).

Until as a community we accept that there are some terrible cyclists as well as terrible drivers, and stop biting the head of anybody who suggests that cyclists may be in the wrong ("THATS RIGHT, BLAME THE VICTIMS!"), then its unlikely we are really going to get any respect from the majority of non cyclist drivers.

posted by edf242 [39 posts]
9th October 2012 - 12:10


"It gets people to work, children to school, food to shops. Everyone depends on it, every day. When transport slows, everything slows. When transport stops, everything stops.”

The first two generally involve short, urban journeys*. If his answer is to;

invest in infrastructure

then this surely means getting as many cars as possible out of the urban environment. The successful evolution of the car into such a good means of transport has created this problem. Cars are an amazingly cheap, effective and convenient method of transport. If you want to remove cars from the urban environment then you need to make the altenatives more attractive. Current schemes such as;

  • Bus
  • Park and ride
  • Train

all tend to be slower, more expensive, less comfortable, less reliable than driving a car.

The best option of course is to cycle; it is the quickest, cheapest and most reliable method of making an urban journey of 5 miles or less. If investment in infrastructure is the answer then lets build proper** cycle routes that will encourage people out of their cars.

*69% of all car journeys were less than
5 miles long in 2005;

**proper means;
-physically segregated from the road
-quality surface
-well maintained
-not shared use (no pedestrians/dog walkers/parked cars)
-wide enough for two way traffic
-continuous (isn't broken up with the dreaded give way/cyclists dismount signs)

posted by qwerky [165 posts]
9th October 2012 - 12:15


This sounds no different to the usual twaddle that Boris rolls out about his commitment to cycling in the capital. All waffle, no bollocks and pedestrian and cyclist KSI's are still on the increase.

I'm surprised he didn't say that they were going to set up a framework of self regulation and be completely hands off about.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [638 posts]
9th October 2012 - 12:42


Much as I would expect from the blue-rinse brigade that makes up a typical Tory Party conference audience. Although of course you might imagine that they would be more sympathetic as they must surely have similar issues as they are wheeled around town in their bath chairs.

The problem is that the Tories are deep in the pockets of the industries which spend most on advertising and political lobbying, ie the industries which are least able to stand on their own feet in a free market - arms, motor, oil, farming. Apparently in the USA (and I have no reason to believe that it wouuld be much different here) the auto industry is the largest single spender on advertising and lobbying, and that is before you include peripheral sectors such as oil, components etc. In fact if you were to take the wider car-related industries you woudl probably find they account for more than half the total spend.

The other problem is that Labour is deep in the pockets of...........

Until we see that Damascene moment when our rulers see the revelation that the auto industry has been allowed to spiral out of all political control - rather like they had that revelation about the tobacco industry a couple of decades or so ago - not much is going to change.

posted by Paul M [336 posts]
9th October 2012 - 12:44


I hope to be meeting under sec Norman Baker in a week or so and will be sure to make some of these points known toh im. Not that it'll change anything.


posted by OldRidgeback [2491 posts]
9th October 2012 - 12:48


edf242 wrote:

Until as a community we accept that there are some terrible cyclists as well as terrible drivers, and stop biting the head of anybody who suggests that cyclists may be in the wrong ("THATS RIGHT, BLAME THE VICTIMS!"), then its unlikely we are really going to get any respect from the majority of non cyclist drivers.

My problem with it is largely the way it's weighted, or rather not weighted. These statements are presented as a fair, even handed way of looking at things; both parties have a responsibility, the minister intones seriously.

And the problem is that it's an enormous, dangerous false equivalence. For all their supposed irresponsibility, cyclists aren't bullying people off the streets of their cities, or the cause of children being thought unable to walk or cycle to school.

And to counter anecdata with anecdata, cyclists have caused me to worry about 3 times in five years of daily commutes to and from Manchester. It's a rare day indeed that a driver doesn't cause me to take a sharp intake of breath, if not worse. And behaving better (I obey traffic law and the Highway Code as I ride, or drive) doesn't engender greater "respect", so far as I can see.

Indeed, if the snatches of half remembered Highway Code shouted at me are anything to go by, I'd be unwilling to accept most drivers' definition of "good cycling" as a precondition for respect given the number that think you MUST use crappy cycle lanes, or that flashing lights are illegal. (And often see this as justification for giving you a dangerously close pass into the bargain).

It's about time policy makers stopped pretending that irresponsibility is a problem equally shared among, and equally impacting all classes of road user, and made more of the duty of care to others motorists are taught in the Highway Code.

"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [427 posts]
9th October 2012 - 12:57


@John the monkey - you forgot about the ones that raise holy hell if you take primary position through junctions or pinch points!

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3634 posts]
9th October 2012 - 13:16


I'd love the corpulent politician to tell me what the cyclist who was hit by a police van, doing 68 in a 30, careering over a hump back bridge with all four wheels off the ground before hitting the poor cyclist and leaving him with permanent brain damage.

What do you expect the cyclist to do? Oh hang on I know, just get on with it - cause no-one is gonna throw the book at the copper for dangerous driving are they?

Sure cyclists sometimes break rules but they mostly endanger themselves. The other way round, tho, and the results are horrific.

posted by moonbucket [57 posts]
9th October 2012 - 14:10

1 Like

There are a couple of problems with the pervasive idea that we have to get our own house in order before anyone makes concessions to us.

As John The Monkey says, the harm done by bad cyclists is, while reprehensible, bugger all in the grand scheme of things. Imagine if these berks were driving cars... actually, don't imagine, just go and find some statistics. Several hundred people are killed every year as a result of drivers ignoring red lights and mounting pavements. The infractions of cyclists don't even come close to causing that sort of carnage.

As a cyclist you have a powerful incentive to avoid reckless riding in the first place, because you'll also be hurt, quite possibly more seriously than whoever you collide with. The constant tabloid drone that cyclists are free to break traffic laws with impunity and are the outlaws of the road ignores this fact. I wouldn't be surprised if the bloke running the red light on your morning commute has started believing this hype.

As for the idea that we'll somehow be able to influence the behaviour of an irresponsible minority if we moan about them enough, frankly you are micturating into the wind. Pavement cycling in particular is done out of well-founded and rational fear; you're not going to get rid of that by having a whinge.

posted by Mr Agreeable [160 posts]
9th October 2012 - 14:46


"You can't just click your fingers to solve it [transport problems]. You need to think big and hold your nerve for decades."

yup, that's what the dutch did

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7736 posts]
9th October 2012 - 15:07

1 Like

"You can't just click your fingers to solve it [transport problems]. You need to think big and hold your nerve for decades."

The slight problem here being that politicians don't think in terms of decades, they think in terms of the next election or cabinet reshuffle.

posted by crazy-legs [618 posts]
9th October 2012 - 15:30


My 4 mile trip into Birmingham (venue for the Tory conference as happens) today entailed 4 'near misses', pretty much par for the course:

i.) 4 policemen cross the road on the hill I am descending - 2 stop at the pedestrian island (its not a pedestrian x-ing though) the other two look at me and then just step out into my path! where am I supposed to go? - lots of braking, swerving amd cussing!

ii)more pedestrians - a couple walking on the pavement with their backs to me just suddenly decide to walk in the road to pass someone else, just as I'm being overtaken by a taxi - its a good job for them that I wasnt the taxi.

iii) on a left hand exit from an island an overtaking van gets close enough for me to bang on his side panel with my fist - he took no notice at all, I could have been sprawled in the road for all he knew.

iv) on the way home, approaching a mini roundabout up a steep suburban hill I see a van approach from the left andkeep looking at him. He stops at the junction as I get to it and then just as I'm infront of him he starts driving forward missing me by inches and then has the temerity to say he didnt see me.

Tell me - what have I got to do to do 'my bit' for road safety? Drive a car?

Ps 4 miles of this 8 mile round trip were on canals so this makes 1 serious near miss per mile of public road - chew on that Patrick!

andybwhite's picture

posted by andybwhite [235 posts]
9th October 2012 - 15:38


I ride in London every day, also allegedly the home of some of the worst errant cycling in the country ... but I can't remember the last time I saw someone do anything to truly put themselves in danger

On they other hand, bad driving is a weekly experience - not least mobile phone use, and it's an unusual week when I don't see ten people using their phone, sometimes 3 or 4 in a day.

posted by fluffy_mike [91 posts]
9th October 2012 - 16:23


Good points made by Qwerky et al about the proper investment in cycling infrastructure which is urgently needed to encourage cars to be left at home for short journeys.

Indeed it's a shame that there was no announcement about investment in such cycling infrastructure. IMO investment is required in both cycling and transport infrastructure to improve the economic and physical health of the nation.

Cyclists do have a duty of care to themselves as do car drivers (to the cyclists, that is!)

Not surprising, but predictably boring, are the other class-warrior comments made on here. No government, to date, has done much to improve cycling infrastructure.

posted by 700c [649 posts]
9th October 2012 - 16:55


If by "do their bit" he mean obide by the laws of the road, I have no problem.
Better enforcement of the law on the road would make the roads a lot safer.

posted by thereverent [336 posts]
9th October 2012 - 17:23


Let's take away all ministerial cars. Then government ministers would suddenly become very interested in safer roads for cycling.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
9th October 2012 - 17:53


A report commissioned by the DfT and carried out by the Metropolitan Police looked at accidents involving motor vehicles and cyclists, where the cyclist was seriously injured. It found,

"With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time."

"The study, carried out for the Department for Transport, found that in 2% of cases where cyclists were seriously injured in collisions with other road users police said that the rider disobeying a stop sign or traffic light was a likely contributing factor. Wearing dark clothing at night was seen as a potential cause in about 2.5% of cases, and failure to use lights was mentioned 2% of the time."

A report of the study with a link to it can be found at.

This study shows that if drivers were as careful at avoiding cyclists as cyclists are at avoiding vehicles, then accidents to cyclists would be cut by two thirds.

McLoughlin should tackle drivers first. Blaming cyclists for their own misfortunes might go down well with the Tory conference, but is a pretty nasty tactic. This study was presumably carried out in order that the policies of McLoughlin's Department are most effective. If he is ill informed about the main causes of accidents to cyclists he has no excuse and should ask his civil servants to advise him. If he ignored their advice his speech is inexcusable.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [344 posts]
9th October 2012 - 17:57



It's the future. Slowing things down is actually going to improve it for us all at very little cost. Linking increased traffic speed to increased productivity is unproven and just ridiculous. Actual time and money is spent clearing up accidents and compensating ruined lives. That's what should be concentrated on now. The way to save money and lives is to reduce residential areas to 20mph.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1124 posts]
9th October 2012 - 19:08


BigDummy wrote:
It's the Tory conference. They hate te gays, cyclists and foreigns in hats,

guess we're not invited then...

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
9th October 2012 - 20:17


Even the absolute worst cyclist in the world - be they a hoodie on a BMX riding on a crowded pavement, or one of the minister's cabinet colleagues calling a police officer a f*cking pleb - is "doing their bit" for safety by using a vehicle that is approximately 100 times lighter and on average is about 3 times slower than the top selling car in the UK on clear roads. There is no excuse for law-breaking or inconsiderate behaviour when using any form of transport, but a roughly three orders of magnitude lower kinetic energy in the event of collisions is the sort of difference a member of the government should consider before taking a cheap shot at a vulnerable outgroup.

As for the stuff about how important transport is, I'm sure he thinks so... right up to the moment he is promoted to a more prestigious department in a few months. I imagine Philip Hammond hasn't given the economic and social impacts of transport policy a moment's thought since skipping merrily to the MoD just under a year ago. After all, defense contractors are so much better at hospitality, and they offer better-paid consultancy and directorship positions to ex-ministers when their careers in politics are over.

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
9th October 2012 - 20:18

1 Like

Coleman wrote:
"Oi! You lot on the push bikes. Do your bit and stop getting run over. Perhaps you should just leave the bike at home. That way cycling fatalities will drop dramatically. Thanks awfully."

What a prat.

Then we can ad to the road congestion by using our cars!

We have an IDIOT for Transport in our Government.

Prat is correct!

posted by Mostyn [425 posts]
9th October 2012 - 23:34


Watched a programme on ITV today called "The Chase" Hosted by Bradley Walsh (A Quiz Programme) one of the questions was : "What are Inconsiderate Lycra louts Commonly Known as?"

Answer : Cyclists!

We need a Think Cyclist For Safety Campaign. Life is precious to all; keep us safe and secure as we ride on lifes highway.

Everyone should ride a bike - maybe they would appreciate the difficulties we face on the road? Because we all drive cars you know.

posted by Mostyn [425 posts]
9th October 2012 - 23:55


Do their bit? Sure, but how? Kill ourselves to save the drunk doing it? Wear a helmet to make us invulnerable to the oncoming 2.5 tonne Range Rover Sport overtaking in a stupid place? Carry a light house to help the ignorant see us through the haze of their smoky tobacco filled cabin? Words of an idiot who clearly has no idea what he's talking about. Then again we could blame the child for the pedophile attack, or perhaps the Jewish for the holocaust...but that's not P.C. is it? Disgusting.

Let's up the ante. How about as cyclists we treat pedestrians with the same level of care as some motorists treat cyclists? We know for example that cyclists could kill (accidentally of course) around 100 people per year and government wouldn't get involved as those are the kind of figures we see each year between fatal attacks concerning motorist and cyclists.

Of course I'm not advocating the above but it gets you thinking. If a lynch mob were to start seriously injuring and killing pedestrians how long would it be before the public were up in arms about it and demanding action? Not long I'm sure. Can you imagine if say 100 pedestrians were killed by drunk/drugged/aggressive cyclists and another few hundred thousand maimed and seriously injured?

Of course when government did come knocking we could simply throw the excuse back that motoring die hards use

- sorry, mate didn't see you
- it's your own fault for being in the way
- you're a danger to yourself and others
- you don't pay pavement tax (non-existant just like road tax!)

How is the continual slaughtering of one group by another more aggressive group for the want of basic courtesy and respect for life not a human rights issue?!! Now that's a topic I would be interested to explore.

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [199 posts]
10th October 2012 - 0:04


Well put. So, can we (or preferably Road.CC) put this fact to the minister and then ask him to provide a sensible answer as to how the above statistics are consistent with his apparent statement essentially calling cyclists to do more when in fact its motorists (as a general rule) who actually need to put some effort in?

I would love to hear his response and then push him to answer why it is too much to ask one group to stop slaughtering another group for want of adherence to traffic law, basic respect for life and simple courtesy on what is a shared resource funded by us all.

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [199 posts]
10th October 2012 - 0:11


lso about getting cyclists to do their bit too.

I guess that means helping the police and getting a shotgun to deal with crap driving....

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1681 posts]
10th October 2012 - 8:59

1 Like