Dave Brennan: Build routes to be safe by design

I’VE been active in campaigning for cycle safety for nearly eight years now. It was at the time my first child was born that I decided to buy a bike instead of buying a second car.

Picture: AP

After only a couple of months of cycle commuting I realised that while the statistics told me that cycling was safe, it didn’t feel particularly safe. As time progressed I learned new cycling techniques that made my cycling feel safer. I’d hold a strong road position where it didn’t feel safe for a car to pass, I learned to listen to cars’ engine noises to work out what a driver behind me was likely to do next, and I learned that sometimes you could stop a daft manoeuvre by a well-timed wobble. I strongly believed that cycling could be safer if cyclists learned similar techniques and by running campaigns to remind drivers of our vulnerability. I was fortunate enough to visit Amsterdam recently, and at the end of the trip it struck me that the routes were so safe I hadn’t even paid attention to the traffic.

Cycling in the Netherlands is safe by design – and that is the principle with Dutch roundabouts. It forces drivers to slow down and look out for cyclists, but manages to keep traffic moving.

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I was nearly killed by an HGV in Milngavie, Glasgow, in 2008, on a roundabout which, by design, allows a very fast approach for cars.

With the help of the cycle industry we have been looking at an alternative model for that roundabout, based on the Dutch design.

When my first child started riding a bike, I started to look at the roads around us and wondered: where could I safely take my child cycling? I was shocked to realise that there were very few child-friendly roads. I realised that the only way for my son to be safe would be to teach him that he could trust no-one else on the road but himself and to ride appropriately.

There had to be another way. What we needed was properly designed, properly connected and properly funded cycling infrastructure.