Want more people to cycle? Then crack down on speeding motorists

A report by MPs and peers which came out yesterday called for a quarter of all journeys to be made by bicycle by 2050, saying a "fundamental cultural shift" is now needed in how we think about travel.

A report by MPs and peers which came out yesterday called for a quarter of all journeys to be made by bicycle by 2050, saying a “fundamental cultural shift” is now needed in how we think about travel.

The report contains lots of good recommendations to get more people cycling: children should be taught how to ride a bike at school, there should be more segregated cycle lanes and urban speed limits should be reduced, where possible, to 20mph.

As a cyclist myself these all sound like excellent ideas. According to the latest National Travel Survey (2012, for 2011 data), just 2 per cent of all trips in the UK are currently made by bicycle. Anything that encourages more people to ride a bike should be welcomed, and would have a positive impact on people’s health, the environment, as well as the quality of life of those who live near busy roads.

I have another recommendation, however: ensure car drivers stick to speed limits that are already in place. One of the most nerve-wracking things for a cyclist is to hear the roar of a speeding driver approaching you from the other side of a blind bend or in poor visibility.

Three of the countries that come out on top in terms of the percentage of journeys made by bicycle – Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands – are also the three countries with the best road safety records in the EU.

Although Britain also has a good record for road safety, the number of deaths on British roads have been rising again in recent years – a rise which appears to have started about the time the coalition declared its war on speed cameras.

Speed cameras

The number of children being killed on the roads has also started to go up according to figures released this year – after a 61 per cent fall during the five year period leading up to 2010.

When the coalition came to power three years ago, it promised to end the ‘war on the motorist’, and as a consequence, it stopped central government funding for new speed cameras. It also allowed councils to axe funding for cameras in order to make savings.

Perhaps more people might be encouraged to take to two wheels rather than four if they were a little more certain they were not going to be killed doing so. Macho posturing about ending an imaginary ‘war on the motorist’ probably won’t help matters.

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