The assessment of danger and risk go hand in hand with cycling on the road even on those blissful occasions when the roads are empty, and the heart rate never rises other than through effort.
British Cycling is not a road safety organisation, but you – our members – tell us consistently how important the need for safer roads is for everyone who cycles, even occasionally, on the open road around motor traffic.
Road safety week each year, managed by the wonderful charity Brake, is a time for reflection on the terrible and inexcusable incidents that still damage too many lives each year. It is also a period for reflection on the work being done, often at a community level by volunteers, to make our roads and streets better for everyone and especially for people who want to cycle.
We know how much campaigning for safer roads matters to you – back in 2019, 15,000 of you told us in our State of Cycling survey. Being close passed at speed (in either direction), especially on rural roads was top of your concerns along with poor and dangerous road surfaces and excessive motor vehicle speed in general.
The issues that you raised in 2019 still resonate today but a few things have changed for the better.
Most significant of all has been the revision of the Highway Code which places much more responsibility on the driver to protect those more at risk than themselves. As I discussed at the time, the Highway Code of itself does nothing to make you safer when you cycle. It is the required change in behaviours of everyone who drives that must now follow on.
What the revision of the Highway Code does do is express clearly to the public that law makers within Government have a clear view of where responsibility lies on our roads. That sets a much firmer precedence that has been in doubt until that point. Now the job for all the organisations involved in the revision is to make it count in driver training, policing of our roads and sentencing decisions in the courts.
The recent announcement of the creation of a new Road Incident Investigation Branch could mark a dramatic change in how incidents on our roads and especially dangerous driving are considered in shaping future transport policy. Experts in this field (as well as most people who cycle regularly) already know that illegal driver inattention, excessive speed combined with sometimes callous and threatening behaviour are underlining causes of too many serious incidents. The investigation branch will be able to definitively prove it and make recommendations as to how to remedy that.
The terrible state of repair of most minor and rural roads remains a national disgrace. It is a universally important issue and that rarest of things, one that unites people who drive and cycle! Decades of underinvestment in local roads and a focus on motorways has left us with dangerous potholes and terrible surfaces that pose a particular danger to people who cycle. Each year we support the Asphalt Industry Association with their Alarm Survey. The bill for a one off, nine-year long national resurfacing programme has risen to over £12 billion but the benefits for all communities are so significant that the case for action remains clear.
Our partners at Leigh Day Solicitors have asked experts within their team to comment on some of the areas of concern to members and many other clients whom they represent in insurance cases. The purpose of providing this information is not to scare anyone and I am always at pains to remind people that cycling remains a statistically safe activity. We know that when incidents do occur, you need to know that you have the very best support to look after your interests.
Leigh Day cycling solicitors Philip, Rory, William, and Jane have provided more information on how you can stay safe while out on your bike, and what is being done to ensure our roads are safe:
As always please do contact me with any comments or questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Chamberlin, Policy Manager