There was an interview on the radio yesterday with Jesse Norman, the Minister for Transport, who’s announcing a review of “cycling safety.” This seems intended to create a new “dangerous dog” act, a poorly thought-out response to a highly visible incident, the killing of Kim Briggs by Charlie Alliston when he hit her while cycling on a track bike in London. The best response I’ve seen is this one, in the Independent, but here’s my shot at it.
I have no truck with Charles Alliston. He committed a stupid and willfully dangerous act that killed an innocent mother. However, the press coverage has not emphasised that cyclists and pedestrians are most at risk from automobiles. In the year March 2015 – 2016 that Charles Alliston killed Kim Briggs, there were 3,500 cyclists killed or seriously injured and 5,300 pedestrians killed or seriously injured. The overwhelming majority of those deaths or serious injuries were caused by automobile drivers.
I have a personal interest in the safety of cyclists as well. In that reporting year, I was hit by a car while cycling to my post depot to collect a package. The car drove off without stopping, leaving me with a broken collar bone. I don’t have a driving license; I get around on my bike. That injury limited me for months and left me fearful of another incident. I haven’t stopped cycling, but lots of people tell me that “cycling is too dangerous.” I wish I could tell them, strongly and confidently, “it’s not.”
Many reports, like the review from the Department for Transport, emphasise the disparity between the number of deaths caused by cyclists and the number of cyclists killed by cars. Far fewer note the number of pedestrians killed by cars as well. Taking the Department for Transport’s figures for 2015-16, roughly a third more pedestrians than cyclists were killed or seriously injured. And almost all of that was done by cars.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably are convinced that cycling, in spite of foolish and dangerous cyclists like Charles Alliston, is healthy and environmentally beneficial: good for the cyclist and good for society. Cycling is almost pollution-free, it’s low impact, and it has amazing health benefits. The Department for Transport needs to make cycling and walking safer, and help citizens realise that these are the best ways to travel short distances. Cyclists and pedestrians need legal and systemic protection from automobiles, not laws demonising cyclists.
This review seems designed to not to improve “cycling safety,” but to big up the Government’s response to what was virtually a freak incident.
*I’m not going to give any more publicity to the idiot cyclist; instead, I’m featuring a picture of my granddaughter doing what cyclists should do: having fun.