Bristol police say that the first two weeks of a road safety crackdown have demonstrated “how great the need is to educate cyclists and motorists on proper, safe use of the road” after 365 drivers and 324 cyclists were stopped for a variety of offences. But campaigners say the real solution to road safety in Bristol is infrastructure.
Police most commonly spoke to motorists for stopping in the advanced stop line ‘bike box’ at junctions, and to cyclists for riding through red lights.
Sergeant Sean Underwood who is leading the operation said: “The campaign has been going really well. The more people we speak to, the more we realise that there is a genuine lack of knowledge of the law in this area. The fact that we have stopped and spoken to so many motorists for stopping in the cycle box just goes to show that people don’t realise this is an offence.”
Police have also been targeting cyclists without lights, and have been issuing ‘conditional’ tickets.
Sergeant Underwood said: “The bike lights element of the campaign is also proving successful. So far we’ve stopped and advised 90 cyclists for not having lights on their bikes in the dark and 50 of these have been given the ‘conditional’ ticket (the option to swap a £50 fine for the chance to prove they’ve bought and fitted proper lights for their bike) of which 23 have already been into The Bridewell [police station] and had their ticket cancelled.”
But after three cycling deaths on Bristol’s roads last month, cycling campaigners say that just talking to drivers and cyclists is not enough. They want Bristol City Council to debate Bristol Cycling Campaign’s plan for a £109 million cycling network.
A petition to get the group’s plan delivered by 2025 has 3,200 signatures, but needs 3,500 to get the council’s attention.
Martin McDonnell, from Bristol Cycling Campaign, told the Bristol Post that a public debate would be a vital step towards long-term commitments to improve the city's transport infrastructure.
He said: "We want to smash the 3,500 barrier, in order to show the mayor and the people of Bristol that there is massive support for investment in cycling for Bristol, in order to make it a better city to live and work in.
"We feel a full council debate is necessary, as we want to get cross-party support for investment in cycling and to have it embedded not just in the council's plans but in each party's plans."
Bristol mayor and noted red-trouser-wearer George Ferguson has been supportive of the plan, but the council has yet to commit funds.
Mr McDonnell said: "Good progress has been made with regards to setting targets, putting a plan in place and committing investment over the next two years. But we need commitment to an ongoing, longer-term plan, with a team to implement it and a cycling 'commissioner' to lead the transformation."
Mr McDonnell said he supported recent police efforts to advise drivers and cyclists but said building better infrastructure would solve road safety issues in the longer term.
He said: "Our Manifesto gets to the heart of the problem – the public's perception of cycling as a dangerous form of transport.
"This perception will be difficult to change without the implementation of safe cycling infrastructure – this means separate, physically segregated, cycleways on busy roads and clear separation between pedestrians and people on bicycles elsewhere.
"Good infrastructure breeds good behaviour – if there is safe, convenient, comfortable, direct cycling infrastructure people will use it. Our campaign is aimed at making cycling available to everyone in Bristol, young, old, disabled, commuters, leisure, shoppers and school children. By doing so we will help to alleviate congestion, reduce pollution, improve health and activity and make Bristol a better city."
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.