Ian Maxwell: we must improve road safety for cyclists

Ian Maxwell is campaigning for a two-way cycle path alond Princes Street. Picture: submitted
Ian Maxwell is campaigning for a two-way cycle path alond Princes Street. Picture: submitted
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The reason many people give for not cycling is fear of traffic, and this is why government and councils must fund protected cycling infrastructure on main roads.

In fact, even on the roads, cycling safety in Edinburgh has improved hugely.

When Spokes began in 1977, somebody cycling five miles a day could, on average, expect a serious injury, such as a fracture, once in their lifetime.

Now, in 2017, it is just once in every 15 lifetimes. Nonetheless cycling in traffic does look dangerous to the bystander or car occupant.

As a result, many people lose out on the benefits of low cost, healthy exercise built into everyday commuting or shopping, reliable journey times and no need to go to the gym. Of course, even one injury is too many.

Thus, to improve safety further, and to improve the feeling of safety, in addition to protected cycle routes on main roads, it is also vital to identify those blackspots where crashes involving bikes are a real issue.

Simply looking at the number of crashes in a particular location without adjusting for other factors, such as the levels of actual and potential cycle use, does not give a complete picture of what measures are most cost-effective, and so we particularly welcome this Sustrans report into cycle blackspots across Scotland.

Such studies can help decide where changes in road layout are urgently needed.

At a time when government cash is poured into new and widened trunk roads, whilst local transport and street repair is starved, it is vital that spending decisions are based on a better understanding of what will make a significant improvement to cycle safety.

It is also worth remembering the other message of this research – that in areas where cycling is more popular, the risk of collisions occurring decreases.

That perhaps is one of the reasons why cycling has already become so much safer in Edinburgh.

- Ian Maxwell is a member of Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign