British Cycling led calls for justice and improved legislation to protect cyclists today as the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s (APPCG) ‘’ inquiry held the second of six evidence sessions, this week focusing on the subject of safety.
British Cycling’s Policy and Legal Affairs Director, Martin Gibbs, gave evidence and focused on the need for the justice system to better serve the needs of cyclists and other vulnerable road users, drawing particular attention to the dangers that HGVs pose to cyclists. The Ministry of Justice responded by agreeing to a review of current legislation.
Representatives from cycling organisations British Cycling and the CTC, and road safety groups RoadPeace and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) told the second evidence session that the criminal justice system is not fit for purpose in dealing appropriately with people who endanger lives on the road.
The inquiry also heard that deterrents are not strong enough to act as an incentive for people to take more care on the roads, and that the current laws are not being strictly enforced. Since the lesser offence of ‘careless driving’ has been brought into force, fewer people are being charged with ‘dangerous driving’ offences. Summing up the second session, co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Ian Austin MP, said:
“Today’s hearing focused on all aspects of road safety but the most compelling argument presented to the inquiry was the fact that the justice system isn’t protecting cyclists when things go wrong. I’ve seen people get knocked off their bikes and in most instances it just isn’t taken seriously enough. I’m pleased that Martin Jones from Ministry of Justice has agreed to look at the laws concerning bad driving.”
Co-chair Julian Huppert MP added:
“This inquiry is pulling together some very strong evidence from experts in a wide range of fields. It is vital that we cover every angle if we are to present the full picture to government on what needs to be done to improve cycle safety.
“Driver behaviour and cycle training were two areas covered today and it is essential that all road-users play their parts if we are to see real change.
“This inquiry is putting cycling firmly in the spotlight and its profile has been raised even further by the announcement today of £62 million to improve safety on our city streets. We need to see real commitment now if we are to make a difference.”
The need for better safety measures and major changes to the road infrastructure were also discussed at length. British Cycling’s Martin Gibbs made the point that there have been no cycling deaths in Paris in the last year: “We think this is partly due to the much tighter restrictions on HVGs entering the city.”
Figures have shown that there were no cycling deaths in Paris in 2011. Trucks bigger than 43m cannot enter the city without special dispensation and trucks bigger than 29m can only enter Paris between 10pm and 7am.
The Institute for Advanced Motorists’ (IAM) Neil Greig said: “The main reason that accidents happen is human error. We want roads designed to ensure mistakes don’t lead to fatalities.” RoadPeace’s Amy Aeron-Thomas agreed: “The main safety issues include junction design. We need to remove or reduce the dangers.”
Motoring bodies the AA and the IAM both agreed that cyclist awareness is not sufficiently covered in the driving test. The AA’s President Edmund King also spoke about the need for mutual respect on the roads - “drivers and cyclists are the same people” he said. “We need to break down barriers – change will come mainly from changing perceptions.”
Increased cycling participation was also cited as a measure that would by nature make the roads safer, although it was acknowledged that the current road infrastructure is putting would-be cyclists off.
The CTC’s Chris Peck said: “As more people cycle, drivers become more aware of how to drive with cyclists alongside.”
The case for reduced speed limits was made by David Dansky of the Association of Bikeability Schemes. He made the point that “if we share the same space we should share the same speed.”
Representatives from British Cycling, CTC, and the Transport and Health Study Group gave evidence at today’s inquiry alongside the AA, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the Freight Transport Association, the Association of Bikeability Schemes and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. Evidence about the criminal justice system was covered by Martin Jones from the Ministry of Justice, Martin Porter QC, the Metropolitan Police and RoadPeace.
A further development on cycle safety took place yesterday when the Labour Party announced that it has appointed Wigan MP Yvonne Fovargue as a dedicated Shadow Minister for Cycling. Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle announced last year that Cycle Safety Assessments should be compulsory for all new roads and transport schemes.
The next session of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry, focusing on planning and design, will take place on 6 February. As well as cycling groups CTC, Sustrans, ibikelondon and the London Cycling Campaign, the inquiry will hear from the Highways Agency and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation. Campaigning bodies 20s Plenty and Living Streets will also give evidence.
For more information about the inquiry, visit: http://allpartycycling.org/inquiry/