A personal injury lawyer has called for cycle training to be made compulsory in schools – but while that is a view shared by cycle campaigners, the reasoning why it would be beneficial is entirely different.
Louise Plant, head of personal injury at solicitors Prettys, which has offices in Ipswich and Chelmsford, says that the severity of injuries sustained by cyclists her firm represents is getting more severe.
She argues that by making “cycling proficiency” – nowadays known as Bikeability – mandatory for schoolchildren, they will become more confident riders.
That’s a view shared by Cycling UK, which in its briefing note on cycle training, calls for Bikeability to be added to the national curriculum, and for all schoolchildren to be given the chance to participate in it.
The national cycling charity highlights that one of the benefits of teaching children cycle safety at school is that it will also make them more understanding of the issues faced by vulnerable road users should they start driving motor vehicles in later life.
However, the lawyer seems to throw the onus for their safety entirely on cyclists.
She said: “As vulnerable road users, cyclists need to ensure that they have taken sufficient steps to protect themselves from accidents and injuries – in a collision with a motor vehicle, it tends to be the case that it is the cyclist who will come off worse.
“The cases that we deal with involving cyclists relate to claimants who have suffered more serious injuries including broken bones, serious spinal injuries and in some cases head and fatal injuries. The fallout from these accidents in terms of the life-changing injuries that those claimants have suffered is wide-ranging.
“The government need to continue to increase cycling safety awareness to help tackle the severity of injuries we are seeing,”
She urged that “better [cycling] networks should be a core focus within city and town centres as well as main roads as part of the government’s green transport plan, and children should be encouraged to get involved in cycling safety programmes to gain skills that will remain with them through to adulthood.”
Few cyclists would argue with that, but the firm’s press release suggested that would remove riders from busier, more congested roads – somewhere that many more experienced and confident cyclists willingly ride, especially if any dedicated cycling infrastructure running alongside is sub-par, or shared with pedestrians.
Plant continued: “Ensuring everyone is educated in cycling safety throughout the school network as a starter, and encouraging more employers to introduce cycling initiatives will ensure individuals are both more confident and likely to comply with safety suggestions which will prevent or reduce the extent of injuries.
“These largely focus on carrying and using, when necessary, protective and visible clothing, lights and puncture repair kits, as well as having your bike regularly checked to ensure it is road worthy.”
“Addressing awareness from an early age is the first step to a knowledgeable community of road users and cyclists, where the opportunity to preserve the popularity of cycling is extended,” she added.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, told road.cc: “Giving children the confidence and skills to cycle has huge benefits for their long-term health and wellbeing, so Cycling UK welcomes Prettys' contribution to cycle training debate.
"But despite their best intentions, we’d take issue with the suggestion that it’s needed because it’s their responsibility to ensure they’ve taken sufficient steps to protect themselves from accidents and injuries.
“Vulnerable road users aren’t vulnerable because they decide to walk or cycle, they’re vulnerable due to the risks presented by the drivers of larger vehicles," he continued.
"The road safety conversation should therefore start with the question of how that risk is reduced, not what the vulnerable road user should do to protect themselves, which is just looking through the wrong end of the telescope,” he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.