If this website has a pie-in-the-sky wish for 2018, it’s that the Daily Mail’s readership learns to question how the newspaper sources its information. (Similar but crueller wishes may well feature in the comments below this article.)
The Mail has today run a story headlined: “Dangerous cycling should be a crime, say two thirds of drivers amid claims they are treated too harshly.”
It is based on a survey about cyclists and, as ever in that newspaper, it plays on perceptions of fairness.
The survey found that 73 per cent of drivers said cyclists should be subject to similar legal requirements as motorists, and of these just under nine in ten called for a new law for dangerous cycling. (While people can already be prosecuted for dangerous cycling, there has been a suggestion that an offence of causing death by dangerous or careless cycling be introduced since the Charlie Alliston case earlier in the year.)
You can pretty much guess the rest.
Of the drivers who called for tougher legislation for cyclists, over 80 per cent also backed the introduction of compulsory insurance, while 73 per cent of them said cyclists should be required to wear fluorescent clothing.
It’s not entirely clear whether the statistics that follow are percentages of all of those questioned for the survey or percentages of the subset who called for tougher cycling legislation.
Not that it particularly matters. The message is the same, so read it however you want.
Seven in ten said cyclists should have to pass a road proficiency test and wear a helmet; 56 per cent said cyclists should be obliged to have a bicycle equivalent of an MOT; and 52 per cent want cyclists to have to pay road tax.
Almost six in ten drivers said that cycle lanes designed to alleviate congestion and increase safety for cyclists have failed to improve traffic flow, or made the situation worse.
The poll was of more than 10,400 drivers, which is significant. It was conducted by campaign group FairFuelUK, which also seems significant.
Launched in January 2011 to fight for lower fuel duty, FairFuelUK claims to represent “the real concerns of hard working motorists, families, small businesses, commercial drivers and hauliers across the UK.”
However, its emphasis is very much on commercial operations. FairFuelUK is funded by the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association and the Association of Pallet Networks.
Unconcerned by minor details such as where the funding for roads actually comes from, campaign founder Howard Cox said: “What infuriates the highest taxed motorists in the world is what they see as the lack of fairness apportioned to all road users.
“They believe cyclists should be making some financial contribution to roads and increasing cycle lanes they currently benefit from.
“They also want to see the compulsory use of helmets, cyclists to be road insured, wear fluorescent clothing, pass a road proficiency test and more prosecutions for the increasing episodes of dangerous cycling.”
The poll also found that 88 per cent of drivers believe that traffic has got worse over the last five years, with almost seven in ten saying that this is because there are more cars on the roads.
Roger Geffen, Cycling UK’s Policy Director, said: “If we want grandparents and grandchildren alike to be able to cycle safely and normally for day-to-day journeys, it makes no sense to impose unnecessary new rules and costs on would-be cyclists, particularly children.
“The top priority must be to create safe, cycle-friendly streets and junctions, while strengthening the enforcement of our existing traffic rules, rather than adding new ones.”
Geffen highlighted the fact that many of the proposals put forward in the FairFuelUK survey are simply unworkable.
“Cyclists can already be prosecuted for dangerous or careless cycling. However, the other proposals in the FairFuel UK survey would be very costly to implement, would provide few if any benefits and would seriously undermine efforts to attract new people to take up cycling, including children and their parents.”
The results of the survey are in stark contrast to Sustrans’ Bike Life poll which showed high levels of public support among UK city dwellers for significantly increased investment in cycling infrastructure.