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London should invest in cycle safety, says Dutch transport expert

Engineering and education is the key

Better perception of road safety is the key to getting more Londoners to cycle in the capital, a Dutch transport expert has said.

Roelof Wittink, who helped devise Amsterdam's cycle network, believes safety is the “biggest barrier” to Londoners using bikes because they are too scared.

Last week was a black one for London's cyclists, with two young people killed by lorries. Mr Wittink told the London Evening Standard: “We have this cycling culture because we have invested in it and we are still investing in it.”

Mr Wittink, executive director of Amsterdam-based Interface for Cycling Expertise, said it took more than 20 years of legislation and investment to make it the world's “cycling capital”. Bike fatalities were cut by 54 per cent in the Netherlands between 1980 and 2001 as a result of road policies.

He added: “Twenty euros per capita per year is invested into cycling in Amsterdam. It's very important that people investing money into cycling in London listen to cyclists and cycle unions.”

Mr Wittink said Boris Johnson should learn from Amsterdam to encourage Londoners to use bikes and electric bikes.

“In London measures should be introduced parallel to the growing popularity of cycling,” he added. “People should not hesitate to use a bicycle, but at the same time they need the facilities.

If London had segregated facilities then fatalities could be reduced significantly.

“To combat the problems with HGVs you need to combine engineering measures with education. Cyclists have to be aware why they cannot be seen.

“We educate using lots of different ways such as in schools and using the internet. It helps that a lot of drivers in the Netherlands are also cyclists.”

About 150,000 of the Netherlands' 1.3 million bikes are electric and experts predict the number will double in the next three years.

In Britain, sales of the battery-charged bikes are expected to reach around 30,000 this year and 100,000 by 2012, according to the British Electric Bicycle Association.

It estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of the sales will be in London. In Amsterdam, 75 per cent of its residents aged 12 or over own a bicycle and half of that number use one daily.

The number of cyclist deaths in London fell last year to 13. In both 2007 and 2008 the number was 15.

Mr Johnson's transport adviser Kulveer Ranger said: “Cycling is on the up in London, with the Mayor at the forefront of a cycling revolution, which we want to be the safest of its kind.

"We are investing a record £111 million this year on improving safety for cyclists, boosting cycle training, more secure parking, and delivering flagship projects such as a 6,000-bike cycle hire scheme and the first two cycle superhighways — giving commuter cyclists safe, continuous routes into town.”

In Amsterdam, safety measures include:

* More than 250 miles of bike paths to protect cyclists from traffic.

* Traffic lights that have been adapted for cyclists — including timers that count down the number of seconds before the light goes green.

* Diplomas for new cyclists and free lessons for adults who have never cycled before.

* A school route guide to help students plan a safe journey.

* The majority of streets that do not have cycle lanes have a speed limit of 18mph.

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muktere | 13 years ago

In the Netherlands, and most of northern Europe, the cyclists are on one (or at most three) gear bikes, donned with baskets and cycling at a slower pace. You don't find lycra clad, aggressive racing bikes like you do in London. I, too, fear cycling - not only for traffic, but for the other cyclists who are terribly aggressive here.

Tony Farrelly | 14 years ago

£1.20 a litre + some good weather will put more people on bikes it also puts pressure on employers to introduce cycle to work schemes. When the bad weather comes again and petrol drops in price some of those people will get off again, but not all.

We're not in London, but even in somewhere as hilly as Bath there is definitely a move towards cycling in the end it's mainstream opinion that will lead councils, govt, transport engineers and the like and mainstream opinion really is moving in cycling's direction.

I remember what it was like to cycle commute in London in the early and mid 90s it is very different now and the Mayor and TfL are struggling to keep up - they aren't leading the process they are following it.

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

Petrol is going to get a lot more expensive this summer. It'll spark lots of moaning. I wonder how many people will actually stop driving? One colleague of mine said she'd walk or cycle to the office as soon as the bad weather was over, since she lives nearby. She's still driving despite the great weather we're now having. L is for lazy.

Simon E | 14 years ago

All good stuff OldRidgeback. But it's head vs brick wall stuff - we know it all makes sense but persuading the general population seems a million years away
Some contributing factors:
- Exercise is "too much like hard work" for a lot of people, they are lazy.
- Jumping in the car is too easy and petrol still too cheap, even though you'd have hoped parking charges (or lack of space), congestion and so on would deter people.
- Engineers, councils, media and nearly everyone else still seem to think that building more and bigger roads is the solution. Meanwhile the Councils indulge in tokenism. So-called 'cycle lanes', laughable routes and dangerous crossings are still touted while the roads scare many people, particularly women, who would like to get around by bicycle.

Example: Shropshire Council has installed 100 of bike parking spaces at Shrewsbury's busy main hospital, hooray! However, the road from the town centre to the site is very busy, has short sporadic painted white lines on the road they call a 'cycle lane', numerous side turnings and a large amount of speeding traffic. My wife rides this road and hates it.

What it really needs is a dedicated cyclepath along one side, preferably not shared with pedestrians and with priority over side roads, Continental style. It would connect with the well established offroad path alongside the town's inner ring road and safe routes into the town centre. Six months ago the Trust's website didn't even have directions or parking info for cyclists, so we're moving, just very, very slowly.

Meanwhile in the USA a sea change in opinions at the top might offer a glimmer of hope:

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

Cycling is on the increase in London. But the facilities are terrible. And even when there are cycle lanes, they aren't necessarily safer. Riding through Clapham last week I had to swerve when a woman, busy talking into her cellphone, stepped off the kerb and into the cyclelane so she could pass some people waiting outside a shop. She could at least have looked.

Given that over 60% of UK adult males and over 70 of UK adult females take insufficient exercise and that the benefits to the NHS of their losing weight would be equivalent to a medical miracle (with greater impact than say the introduction of penicillin during WWII), it suggests that the more fatties get out from behind the wheel and on top of a saddle for those short journeys htat make up 80% of car journeys, the better for the UK economy. And that's without mentioning the reduction in lost time through weight-related illnesses at present as well as the negative effects of traffic congestion due to too many cars.

PieG59 replied to OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

 1 I am so with you on this!

It's so obvious that cycling is the answer to all the major problems!

And, creating all those new cyclists would generate loads of job creation - bike shops, bike mechanics, designers of bike clothes and accessories.

It is just so obvious I could weep. None so blind as those who will not see . . .

cat1commuter | 14 years ago

£111 million sounds like a lot, but I wonder what the annual road maintenance budget is for London. We're only 30 years behind the Dutch investing in cycling infrastructure. We should sack our road engineers, replace them with Dutch staff, and give them a decent budget.

PieG59 replied to cat1commuter | 14 years ago


G-bitch | 14 years ago

"Mr Johnson's transport adviser Kulveer Ranger said: “Cycling is on the up in London, with the Mayor at the forefront of a cycling revolution, which we want to be the safest of its kind."

Mr Soundbite - did this guy get lessons from Alistair Campbell. All empty drivel which only stands out more when comparing our capital to Amsterdam.

JJ the Flying D... | 14 years ago

"It helps that a lot of drivers in the Netherlands are also cyclists.”

This definitely helps. A lot of drivers in the UK just don't realise how dangerous their actions are. It's not only the cyclist that need to be educated, but also the other road users. Main thing is that everyone should care about their fellow road users a bit more, we all want to get to our destination save!

One love!

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