Should Bikes, Cars & Pedestrians Be Separated?
I’m convinced that separating bikes from cars and pedestrians is the key to reversing an alarming rise in road casualties.
New annual figures from the Department of Transport show that casualties rose to 194,477 in 2014, an increase of six per cent from 2013, halting a steady downward trend since 1997. We’ve certainly noticed this increase at Macks Solicitors.
It’s no surprise to me that pedestrians and cyclists bore the brunt of the rise. These two groups are the most vulnerable road users. They have the least protection and if you’re unfortunate enough to be hit by a vehicle, you’re going to be injured.
The figures suggest that roughly three times as many cyclists as pedestrians end up injured. Presumably this is because pedestrians are likely to be on a separate pavement, whereas cyclists share congested roads with cars, buses and lorries.
If there was more separation of these three groups, as there is in countries such as the Netherlands, I believe the number of cyclist casualties would reduce dramatically.
It’s a real pity that vastly reduced spending on infrastructure due to government cuts has come at the same time as an increase in the popularity of cycling.
The London Olympics and the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire are among the factors that have encouraged more people to get on their bikes.
I speak to staff in cycling shops regularly and they tell me that sales of road bikes have shot up. It’s great that so many people want to get on the road but, sadly, more cyclists on the roads inevitably means more injuries.
The new influx of cyclists include many retired people. I play five-a-side football with my dad and his friends and about half the players in our game are over 60 – that’s not old these days.
Road safety charity Brake is also calling for the reintroduction of casualty reduction targets that were ended in 2010, and I wholeheartedly agree. Yes, they’re ambitious, but you must have something to aim for.
The figures also show that the number of people seriously injured rose by 5% to 22,807 and road deaths were up four per cent to 1,775.
Pedestrian deaths rose by 12 per cent to 446, accounting for three-quarters of the overall increase in fatalities.
Serious injuries to cyclists rose by eight per cent to 3,401, continuing a worrying long-term trend that we’ve seen moving forward since 2004.
Brake is also calling for a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit in our towns and cities. While I agree this would reduce fatalities and serious injuries, I have serious concerns about whether it could be enforced on such a large scale.
The police don’t have the money and my experience tells me people simply will not drive at that speed. Schools have special flashing signs outside calling for drivers to slow down, but how many people actually do?
As a cyclist, I firmly believe we urgently need more investment in cycle routes. I use the roads to get to work when I’m short of time and it can be crazy.
Approaching Newport Roundabout in Middlesbrough, I can’t wait for the bus lane to arrive, because I know that once I’m there cars will no longer be a foot away from my bike.
Cycling back home to Thornaby in the evenings, when I have a little bit more time, I ride along the River Tees, which is so much nicer and more relaxing. I start near Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium and ride all the way back through Teesdale. It takes a bit longer, but I know it’s so much safer.
Cycle routes are great, but if you look at more forward-thinking countries, they have designated bike and pedestrian lanes and roads.
Changing Britain’s infrastructure to match that would be an enormous task. But there’s no doubt in my mind that keeping cyclists, pedestrians and cars apart would be the single biggest contribution we could make to cutting deaths and injuries on our roads.
This article was written by solicitor James Pritchard a keen cyclist and a cycle accidents claims specialist at Macks Solicitors in Middlesbrough.