Being a cyclist in London is garnering a reputation as being a risk-filled exercise.
All too often we hear of another tragic tale of a cyclist suffering an accident on the road – 14 were killed last year in the capital, while over 400 were seriously injured.
Measures are being taken to ensure the safety of cyclists, such as introducing cycling ‘Super Highways’ across the city, placing much-required distance between drivers and their two-wheeled adversaries.
But with the number of cyclists in cities increasing worldwide, will the roads become far more perilous? How dangerous are they in reality, and are we moving towards all out war between motorists and cyclists?
The relationship between the two is steadily dissolving into a tribal state of affairs.
Each side tends to accuse the opposition of foul play, whether that is lack of awareness from those on bikes as to the laws of the road, or the poor driving of the petrolheads who believe most cyclists are just accidents waiting to happen.
I’m a cyclist myself, perhaps jeopardising my impartiality, but I will attempt to discuss the problems for both sides here.
Thankfully, I have never been involved in a serious altercation, however, I have been subject to the road rage of an angry motorist. Apparently, the reason for their fury was based on the assertion I was riding too slowly…
It appears to me that those in cars feel are far more easily agitated about sharing with cyclists than vice versa.
“Overall my experience of cycling in the city has not been a terrifying one”
London’s cycling population is at an all-time high. According to Transport for London (TfL), the total number of journeys rose by 5% to 610,000 a day – 23 million a year – in 2014.
Against that backdrop, the number of deaths and serious injuries last year was actually the lowest since records began, yet cycling is increasingly seen as a gamble.
According to national cycling charity CTC, 67% of non-cyclists in the UK feel cycling on the road is too dangerous, and yet the same website claims the risk of injury from cycling in Britain is just 0.05 injuries per 1,000 hours of cycling.
I may not have cycled for that amount of hours, but so far I’ve never felt overly at risk.
Yet precautions tailored to protect cyclists are appealing to me. Along with an increase in cycle lanes, proposals to allow cyclists to ignore traffic lights in certain circumstances have also been floated.
In the spotlight
Many cyclists already runs lights, and doing so in a designated lane with the knowledge that what you are doing is safe and legal is surely a positive step.
Similar schemes are already working in a number of cities globally, most notably in the Netherlands and Germany, with Paris introducing its own this summer.
Signs at 1,800 junctions across the French capital allow cyclists to continue on (with due care and attention) even when the signal is red.
“In my eyes, cycling is getting safer”
Overall my experience of cycling in the city has not been a terrifying one.
I’ve cycled on roundabouts, T-junctions and had to annoy many a motorists whilst pedalling furiously up a hill, but I’ve never felt in danger, and from the numerous cyclists I know, not one of them has been troubled either.
A mixture of tragic incidents which sometimes lead to fatalities, along with rising agitation amongst motorists over the rocketing numbers of commuters using a bicycle, has led to a glaring spotlight placed firmly on the topic.
In my eyes, cycling is getting safer, and the furore from motorists is utterly in vain; people who regularly cycle understand the risks and do their best to avoid incidents.
New measures to aid them will minimise accidents, and I – along with more and more every day – am looking forward to my next ride through London’s gridlocked roads.
Feature image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons.