Having just blogged about cyclist safety in February, I was just made aware of a new Scottish campaign, Pedal on Parliament whose manifesto is posted on their site pedalonparliament.org. They have a second ride, targeted at Holyrood on 28th April 2012. The manifesto they’re compaigning for goes like this:
- Proper funding for cycling.
- Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
- Slower speeds where people live, work and play
- Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
- Improved road traffic law and enforcement
- Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
- A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
- Improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy
Admirable though this is, I think its missing something. I believe that a media campaign whose purpose is to sell ‘cyclists’ to other road users through targeted education would mitigate a number of the safety issues we see today. Positive stereotypes and popular figures can do a great deal in this regard – as I’ve said before about Mark Cavendish’s fantastic success story, he’s raised the image of cycling in the UK, just as Lance did in the US.
Putting it another way, perhaps using the media to improve the public’s prevailing view of your average cyclist-in-lycra is a second and equally important target. We need to sell a positive image of ‘the cyclist’ as your average law abiding joe because its true.
The Think-Bike Think Biker TV campaign has adverts named after people to promote motor-cyclist safety and aims to make the ‘object-in-the-road’ not just an object, not just a bike, but a human being on a bike. We need something similar.
Following on from yesterday’s post, I’m now seeing more and more material on Cyclist awareness and attitude changes.
Video’s of driver aggression from the cyclist’s perspective appear to be having a a real impact as they are used as evidence in Legal proceedings. The Times newspaper has gone so far as to post a video of a ‘driver jailed for using bus as ‘weapon’ against cyclist‘.
Our club is a small bunch of experienced roadies. I’d say we all have very good bike handling skills, we’ve all been at it for over two decades and we’re all experienced drivers. As cyclists we know the warning signs right down to heavy tyre noise meaning its big and its coming quick.
Here’s some statistics:
I’ve been knocked off twice in the three decades I’ve been at it and consider myself lucky for such a small number and the minor injuries received. In these incidents I was not at fault. Of the others in our group of eight, two have been knocked off more than once.
Injuries my team mates have received range from broken wrists, to a collarbone and the most serious involved broken leg and ribs after being ploughed into.
I’ve had more near misses than I can remember, heard cars locking up behind me as the driver turned his head to a forward looking stance just in time, seen caravans side swipe a rider in our group and watched an elderly driver overtake and pull in without actually going passed the rider he was trying to overtake resulting in injury – the driver didn’t stop .
Road Rage from drivers is phenomenal, I’ve had drivers drive at me, swerve and try and push me off the road with their vehicle and been buzzed by motorbikes and teenage drivers more times than I can remember, just because I was in the way.
I think Chris Boardman’s stance in The Times could help, ultimately it has to be about education and I firmly believe that this starts from the moment young ones can speak. So often I’ve been out training and seen a toddler out with their mother and they say, “Look mum, bike”, it should be “Look mum, man on bike”.
I’ve been biking on roads since I was ten years old giving me 30 years (comprising two decades of racing) of experience both good and bad of all road users. Being human I try to learn for the next time every time and tend to group those experiences and the people in them in several categories – like insurers do these days – and these stereotypes or ‘scenarios’ have served me well.
Just like a boy scout you have to prepare for the worst and do what you can to be ready for when things go wrong and they inevitably do. Knowing what to look out for means you are a little better prepared for when drivers don’t see you, for when its rained for the first time in several days and the roads are greasy, for when pedestrians aren’t paying attention…
However, we all know that being careful and thinking that you can in some way control events and your journey through this world is full hardy. For most of the time close misses and minor injuries are down to luck rather than exquisite bike handling, lightning reactions or constantly scanning for road scenarios that can lead to something bad happening.
Over these 30 years I’ve watched how the mainstream media and politicians have so often missed the point when it comes to cyclists safety. There is little doubt however that there has been a step change in momentum for improved cyclist safety in the last decade. Here in the UK cycling has become more mainstream and coupled with the no-win-no-claim legal culture there is now much more statistical evidence of cycling related injuries from cars. I still believe that a financial penalty will have more impact in changing attitudes than blood and gore road safety campaigns. I also think, perhaps naively, that the Manx Missile’s 2011 World Road Race victory has significantly raised respect for cyclists in the U.K.
Every effort is worth making and I’m glad to see the likes of The Times is part of the step change in momentum as they take up the campaign on behalf of their injured journalist Mary Bowers, here’s hoping she makes a good recovery; you can visit The Times campaign at the following address: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/contact/
Jason McIntyre was one of the many statistics who was not so lucky and having raced with him on several occasions, there was no doubt about his phenomenal physical ability and exemplary bike handling.
Here’s hoping we all stay lucky.