The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ parliamentary inquiry has been told that the criminal justice system is failing to deal adequately with people who put others at risk on the road, particularly vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Stricter enforcement of the law, driver training, lower speed limits and better infrastructure were among key factors highlighted to increase the safety of cyclists.
Summarising the sessiom, Ian Austin MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group which is holding the inquiry, said: “Today’s hearing focused on all aspects of road safety but the most compelling argument presented to the inquiry was the fact that the justice system isn’t protecting cyclists when things go wrong.
“I’ve seen people get knocked off their bikes and in most instances it just isn’t taken seriously enough. I’m pleased that Martin Jones from Ministry of Justice has agreed to look at the laws concerning bad driving.”
Yesterday’s second session of the inquiry focused on cycle safety, with witnesses including representatives of cycling, motoring and road safety organisations, as well as legal experts including Martin Porter QC, who blogs as the Cycling Lawyer.
Mr Porter described the police as “spineless” when it came to cases in which cyclists are victims – you my recall the battle he had to fight to get them to take action when he was threatened by a driver, an incident he captured on video.
The inquiry also heard Chris Peck of national cyclists’ organisation CTC explain that since the offence of careless driving was introduced in 2008, fewer people are being charged with the more serious one of dangerous driving, which he attributed to less strict enforcement of the law.
Several of those giving evidence, who included representatives of organsiations such as RoadPeace, Sustrans, the AA and British Cycling, said that cycle awareness should be incorporated into the driving test, and that infrastructure needed to be put in place to encourage people to cycle.
Jason Torrance, policy director at Sustrans, said: “To create a healthier and less polluted UK we need to ensure everyone has a real choice over how they get around, and urgent action must be taken to transform our streets and local neighbourhoods, making them safer for cyclists and motorists.
"We need to ensure more drivers are trained in how to share roads with cyclists and provide more cycle training opportunities, particularly for children.
"Above all we need to slow the speed of traffic, making 20mph speed limits the norm in built up areas, and provide safer routes for cyclists across the country.”
CTC also called for 20mph to be made the default speed limit in such areas, as well as highlighting that local authorities need to be given more freedom to implement continental style infrastructure, and that the continued threat posed by lorries needs to be tackled, pointing out plans by the Department for Transport to allow longer lorries and to allow them to go faster on roads in rural areas.
Julian Huppert MP, co-chair of the APPCG, commented: “This inquiry is pulling together some very strong evidence from experts in a wide range of fields.
“It is vital that we cover every angle if we are to present the full picture to government on what needs to be done to improve cycle safety.
“Driver behaviour and cycle training were two areas covered today and it is essential that all road-users play their parts if we are to see real change.
“This inquiry is putting cycling firmly in the spotlight and its profile has been raised even further by the announcement today of £62 million to improve safety on our city streets.
“We need to see real commitment now if we are to make a difference.”
The next session concentrates on planning and design and will be held on 6 February.
Those giving evidence include CTC, Sustrans, ibikelondon, the London Cycling Campaign, the Highways Agency, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, 20s Plenty and Living Streets.
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.