There is no war on Britain’s road. Just lots of problems.

There is no war on Britain’s roads. There are potholes, lorries parked and cars hogging our cycle lanes – but there is no war.

I disagree with the scare-mongering phrase used by the BBC TV documentary to describe the cyclist-motorist spats.

Photo © GLUE
Where do we go from here? Photo © Zarina Holmes / GLUE

This exaggerated language reinforces a negative stereotype, that cycling activity is dangerous and cyclists are a danger to motorists (curiously, not the other way around).

This sentiment, unfortunately, has been echoed by an ill-conceived cycling campaign launched by advertising agency Karmarama, which called cyclists “stupid twats.” Karmarama later apologised after a huge backlash on social media and Twitter.

And despite Team GB’s cycling success at London 2012 this summer, in September, the Richmond Magazine editor Richard Nye went so far with this sweeping statement: “The only good cyclist is a dead one.”

Not so smart.
Not a smart idea.

We appreciate the attention and the debates regarding cycling and road safety. That is a good thing because it has raised the sport’s profile and it made cyclists more visible. It helps to highlight the cycling issues as well.

To solve the issues, however, we have to admit that we have problems on the road. According to The Times, the fatality count for cyclists in the UK in 2012 is up to 122, which is a five-year high.

There are too many campaigns promoting cycling and healthy living, but they neglect the fact that the cycling infrastructure for commuters in the country is still pretty poor.

So, at the twilight of 2012, let’s look at our reality with cool heads:

1) Cycling is not dangerous. Bad drivers, bad cycling manoeuvres and poor road systems are.

2) The UK road system is still lagging behind Denmark, Canada and The Netherlands when it comes to accommodating cycle commuting. Cycle lanes are a town-planning afterthought. In some cases, jokes.

3) The punishment on motorists who hit cyclists is still too lenient.

4) As long as the TFL and rail operators keep raising public transport fee while offering the usual bad service, the cyclists will continue cycling. So the government might as well spend more on better cycling infrastructure.

5) We need more cycle-only routes away from heavy vehicles. There is only so much that the hi-vis, helmets and headlights can do. It is much safer to travel on separate routes.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve always been a bit curious as to how me in my lycra, on my bike, riding as close to the curb as I can, am a danger to motorists – sometimes so much so that they have to swerve their utes out of their (safe) path and towards the curb, and me, in an attempt to remind me of that!

  2. Good point. We should avoid using misleading rhetorics when discussing cycling issues. Why are people more inclined to say “cycling is dangerous”, when driving is potentially more hazardous. It’s just playing into stereotypes.

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