In a move which many will interpret as blaming the victim MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday responded to a National Audit Office report on road safety by calling for a clamp down on anti social cycling. In particular the MPs wanted the Department for Transport and the police to act against pavement cyclists and those that jump red lights.
The National Audit Office report they were responding too was published in May and suggested that while Britain's roads were getting safer for drivers it was behind other countries in its approach to road safety for vulnerable groups in particular children and cyclists. In 2007 more than 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists were injured, while 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists were killed on Britain's roads.
However, the MPs focussed their attention on calling for the Department of Transport to clarify the law on riding on pavements and that more should be done to "devise education, training and publicity measures to target such anti-social behaviour, particularly when it breaks traffic laws".
The committee did note that casualty rates amongst cyclists had risen by 11 per cent since 2004, but went on to say that "perception that anti-social behaviour of some cyclists increases their risks and makes other road users feel unsafe".
In its response to the committee the Department for Transport (DfT) said that clamping down on cycling offences: "was typically not high on the agenda of most police forces due to competing demands on their time". It also pointed out anti-social cyclists represent only a small number of total cyclists.
Tory MP David Curry's said that some cyclists were: "irresponsible and arrogant road users" and that many people believed they took no notice of red lights and believed traffic cones were "not for them".
"The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons," he said. "We seem to regard cyclists as living in some sort of superior moral category when they actually do not have any."
Safety campaigners will no doubt point out that an MP or anyone else being hit by a cyclist on the pavement is a bad thing, every year far more people are killed and seriously injured on pavements by motor vehicles. There is also the question of why some cyclists feel safer riding on the pavement than on the road.
Mr Curry's comments though had cross party support, Labour MP Geraldine Smith said that sometimes irresponsible cycling was "dismissed as something trivial" but it was a common complaint at meetings in her constituency.
Responding to the Committee's remarks Richard Deveraux, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport said:
"There are, without doubt, some elements of the cycling community who are in that position and there are equally, I imagine, rather more people who are far more dangerous drivers as well".
LCC communications officer Mike Cavenett said: "LCC is pleased this report highlights the importance of protecting vulnerable road users such as walkers and cyclists. In particular, that it identifies vehicle speed as a crucial factor in determining the number and severity of deaths and injuries on our roads, and LCC has long advocated 20mph speed limits in all residential urban areas.
“The report also points out the disproportionate number of child deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicles in poorer neighbourhoods, which must be addressed. We feel these are more urgent issues with much more severe consequences than the occasional cyclist riding on the pavement."
“No one condones anti social cycling but I think you have to keep things in perspective - there are other more serious problems."
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.