Coffee House

The government needs to make cycling safer, and so do we all

2 August 2012

4:06 PM

2 August 2012

4:06 PM

In the last week alone by winning Olympic gold and through his victory in the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins has single-handedly raised the profile of cycling in this country. Now our government needs to get further behind cycling and pump more money into our infrastructure and make safety improvements to promote our most efficient form of transport.

Cycling is a relatively safe, environmentally-friendly activity for all ages and thankfully serious accidents are low in relation to the millions of journeys taken by cyclists. But there is more we can do to give cyclists greater protection on our roads.

Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced millions of pounds of extra money for cycling, including £8 million for cycle routes, £7 million for rail access, and £30 million for improvements to road junctions to make cycling safer. This is a great start but if we are to make a difference we need £100 million to be invested annually in our cycling infrastructure. We need to improve dangerous road junctions, install priority traffic lights for cyclists and we need the adoption of a 20mph speed limit in residential streets. Every city should have a cycling commissioner promoting and advising on cycle safety.

Sadly, the dedicated cycle paths and routes that I see in my own constituency are seriously lacking across many other parts of the country where consideration and safeguards for cyclists fall far below that which is desirable let alone acceptable.


I would also like to see more training for drivers, especially those of heavy goods vehicles, on how to deal with cyclists. This should be covered fully in the driving test. We know that HGVs are involved in many of the accidents with cyclists and I have been pushing for them to be fitted with mirrors and sensors so they know when a cyclist might be in their ‘blind spot’. Turning alarms and safety bars would also offer cyclists greater protection.

But the onus is not just on the drivers; cyclist must take precautions to protect themselves. They should get training so that they know how to behave on our roads and make sure they use proper lighting at night. I am encouraged by the government’s continued support for cycle training for youngsters in schools.

There has been much debate about making cycle helmets compulsory but I don’t agree with this. People should have the choice as to whether or not they wear a cycle helmet.

By making cycling helmets compulsory we would be saying to people that cycling is not a safe thing to do. This is not true. Compulsory cycling helmet laws have reduced the number of people cycling in other countries, causing worse traffic congestion, affecting people’s health and ultimately making cycling more dangerous.

In this year of the Olympics and with the fantastic success we have enjoyed in cycling, we have a great opportunity to promote it and invest in it. I hope we can build on this success so that cycling can be seen as a viable means of transport for the future.

Julian Huppert is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

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Show comments
  • PhippyNoCar

    If city roads were policed better and ALL road users (cyclists, cars, vans, buses, HGVs & pedestrians) were fined for their wrongdoings, the local authorities could make a fortune.
    This would help the councils recuperate their deficits and give them the means to build a better infrastructure resulting in safer roads for all!

  • ButcombeMan

    Huppert is not someone who has really hit my radar much. A little digging shows that he is on record as supporting the drug legalisation agenda fronted up by Richard Branson on behalf of the big business financed and self styled, “Global Commission on Drug Policy”.

    Huppert is member of the All Party Parliamenteray Group on Drug Reform. He needs to do a bit of thinking and engage his scientific training, drug taking is neither “relatively safe” or “environmentally friendly”.

    He is a LibDem, so the fact that he seems mentally confused goes with the territory?

  • T4

    In my opinion, there are some real idiots on this site! Wearing a helmet makes you less aware and agile – really? Perhaps you should change your mode of transport if that’s the case. 190 dozy TDF’ers! And as for ‘pull out on the twits’ – that beggars belief. Why not stop making purile arguments and come right out and say it – a helmet would mess up yor ‘do’. And as for ‘pull out on the twits’ ………….

  • David Lindsay

    No one in France or the Netherlands suggests that cyclists be required
    by law to wear helmets in order to protect them from motorists.

    Cyclists also behave far better in those countries, obeying traffic
    lights and what have you. But no one, no one at all, suggests, as is
    taken for granted in Britain, that motorists somehow own the roads
    because of “we pay for them” through road tax and petrol duty.

    Those are not particularly large contributions to the colossal central
    and local government cost of the road network that the car lobby seems
    convinced is somehow just there, yet somehow also paid for by road tax
    and by petrol duty. In spite of which, they are resented, even while
    also waved as a badge of virility, by that lobby.

    So here is one for you: how about, as part of the comprehensive
    reorganisation of the tax and benefits system that the Labour Party will
    have to devise between now and the next General Election, a
    headline-grabbing, fully costed commitment to reduce petrol duty
    dramatically, and either to do the same to road tax or else, quite
    conceivably, to abolish it altogether? Accompanied, quite legitimately,
    by a standard set of carrot and stick measures to improve the behaviour
    of cyclists.

    Jeremy Clarkson, of the newly Labour Ward of Chipping Norton, what would
    you say? You would be saying something quite different a couple of
    years later, when the implications had sunk in. By then, though, it
    would be too late.

    Ed Miliband, over to you.

  • Adam

    Drivers don’t want us on the road, pedestrians don’t want us on the pavement, cycling infrastructure is minimal at best and dangerous at worst. And we wonder why cyclists are an angry bunch with little respect for the rules of the road. Everyone knows the solution: take road space away from motor vehicles and give it to cyclists. No one has the political guts to do it though. A world class cycling infrastructure would do as much for the quality of life in London as the building of the sewer system in the 1860s. Maybe allocate funding based on the number of people who would like to cycle rather than the number who actually cycle.

  • michael

    Cyclists need to make cycling safer.

    • michael

      shoulder chip silencers may improve things.

  • Nicholas

    I see the cycling nazis have arrived en masse in their lycra and stupid, pointy dick-head helmets. Time was when the bicycle was just a useful and cheap form of transport rather than a strident cultist religion.

    • rosie

      Dear Nicholas
      You are too intelligent to use this Dave Spart mode of argument. We bicyclists wear ghastly clothes and helmets to preserve our lives and limbs. It was, as you say, not always thus. Time was when children could be let loose on a bike all day with no special clothes and not return till night time. It was the normal way to get to school if the walk was too long. John Major’s spinster, the vicar, the good doctor, and the midwife also come to mind. So do the butcher’s boy and the baker’s, and all the other fit people who went about their daily business on bikes. But Macmillan’s plan for everyone to have a car and no decent public transport put paid to all that, as did his decision to take the first step in unnaturally increasing the population. We would much prefer to wear normal dress – as people in civilized countries still do. And we would prefer not to have to have this discussion.

    • Hex

      Cyclists in London alone killed by motor vehicles this year: 61. Drivers of motor vehicles killed by cyclists: 0.

      You need to take a little time away from the keyboard and read a book that explains what a “Nazi” is while you calm down.

    • PhippyNoCar

      Nicholas, going by all your posts. You are clearly driven by hatred, not ethics.
      A self-centred “the world revolves around me” type of guy.

  • KWC1957

    It would be good to re-introduce the cycling proficiency test; too many cyclists these days do not even have a passing acquaintance with the Highway Code, let alone knowledge of it.

  • Robert_Eve

    Cyclists need to respect traffic lights and pedestrians.

    • PhippyNoCar

      So do cars!!!

      Only 3 days ago as I was leaving my place of work on foot, I pressed the button of the pedestrian crossing, and it instantly changed to amber. A car which must have been 100m away, accelerated and went through the lights a good 2 seconds after it changed red.

      I work for a charity where blind and partially sighted people frequent this crossing. What if it had have been a blind person?

      Now I am sure you wouldn’t want me to generalise about cars because of this idiot, so don’t do it to cyclists.

  • Richard Webb

    The car, in cities, is not the future. Cycling benefits everyone, pedestrians, delivery drivers, buses and taxis, by reducing car use. Park Lane on Saturday – with no traffic was wonderful.
    Barclays Bikes are a revelation. They make London fun to get about. You see so much more stuff. It’s civilised and civilising.
    Yes there are nutters cycling too fast. But twice as many cyclists are injured by ‘jaywalking’ pedestrians than cars. Please don’t start suggesting pedestrians should get a licence, helmet, mirrors etc.
    In the vehicle world it’s accepted that if you drive into the back of another vehicle, you are criminally liable. I’d advocate a similar law for car on cyclist crime. If you knock down a cyclist, a driver should be considered liable, unless the cyclist has done wrong.
    Cyclist have so much skin and and pulpable brain in the game. Car drivers don’t.
    A presumption of guilt might make Black Cabs and Addison Lee less partisan about who owns the road, and make them slow down.
    After all – it’s all our sons and daughters who are cycling on the roads.

    • Nicholas


  • spf50

    How about cyclists not barreling through red lights and zebra/pedestrian crossings for starters? That would be nice…

    • herlihy

      Why does every bore who comes across a article about cycling base a crass argument ( and I’m being generous calling it an argument) on cyclists going through red lights. It’s like dismissing articles on cars and roads by saying why don’t drivers stick to 70mph on motorways. It just makes the commenter look like a dick

      • NIcholas

        Because it is annoying – like cyclists – and the cyclists who do it – most of them it sees – are dicks.

        • rosie

          The reason bicyclists go through red lights is to get safely away from the alarmingly aggressive acceleration of motorists when the lights change. It is not done to save time. It is to save life. Most bicyclists would prefer not to be put in the embarrassing position of having to do it. Motorists have it in their power to change this: they could drive considerately and safely.

          • ags

            true but cyclists wouldn’t need to jump lights if other vehicles better. but as a pedestrian I have been knocked over by some cycling idiot running a red light. It’s a case of 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

            • rosie

              Agreed. There is no excuse at all for bicycling recklessly across a crossing when pedestrians have priority. This is as bad as the reckless motorists’ behaviour. If it has to be done, it should be done after the pedestrians have crossed, and at a slow walking pace.

              • PhippyNoCar

                I am a cyclist who has recently given up my car altogether, and I am sick of irresponsible cyclists giving the rest of us a bad name.

                But I tell you what I am even more sick off… Car/Van drivers using poor cyclist activity as an excuse to rebuke us all!

          • SimonToo

            @rosie Oh no it’s not! When I am waiting on my bicycle at a red light, other cyclists just swan past because they consider the light is, at best, advisory. There is usually absolutely no safety consideration to justify it. Some seem to think red lights only apply to motor vehicles. One or two might subscribe to your cant, but please do not try to tell me that most, even many, do.

            • rosie

              Sorry, Simon, I should have made clear I am not speaking for the louts.

              • SimonToo

                Joy! What a refreshing answer.

    • rosie

      How about cars not overtaking bikes aggressively, and then scrunching to a halt just in fronr of them so they can’t get past? How about cars not driving on the wrong side of the road, and not giving way to bikes on the right side? How about cars not driving out of side streets while the driver is on the telephone and not looking? Hwo about cars not turning left across bikes without warning? How about cars not belching out poisonous fumes and oppressive noise? How about cars not driving on to pavements? How about cars driving carefully in country lanes in case other people – pedestrians, horses, bikes – are round the corner? How about cars not hogging the roads and blighting our country full stop?

      • rosie

        PS and how about cars not jumping the lights at pedestrian crossings? Or speeding up when they see the orange light ahead?

        • rosie

          And how about cars not blaring out loud and tasteless music that distracts other road users?

          • Nicholas

            Enough with the Cycle Nut Fascism we get it, ok?

            • PhippyNoCar

              It’s interesting how everybody looks at it all from their own perspective as opposed to a global one.

              Rest assured, more people have died worldwide simply because of hopeless dependency on private cars that bicycles. And this has nothing to do with road safety!

  • Matthew Hardy

    Why on earth should anyone be permitted to drive a vehicle in a city or town from which visibility is so poor that they can’t see what they are running over? Who approved these vehicles to be on our roads? We need improved design standards for these dinosaurs – or just ban them from centres of population with goods being forwarded on in smaller vans.

  • rosie

    The best reform would be to outlaw on-street parking and give the space reclaimed to bikes – but not motor bikes. This would do more than any congestion charge to purify the air, rid us of noise and danger, tone up the nation, and there wouldn’t have to be a parking services bureaucracy either. Parking would become a private industry, as in Japan. Nothing to do with the state or local government, and very high tech. Invisible mostly. Best of all, people would think twice about driving out belching diesel fumes for short distances when they are able bodied. Disabled people can stick to their scooters – on which they will then be much safer.
    Have you considered outlawing the use of poisonous and noisy diesel as it is in the Lebanon?

  • rosie

    I agree on helmets. Wearing them makes one less alert and agile, especially in the heat.
    Bristol, which calls iself “cycling city” is hugely oppressed by motor traffic and has just spent a lot of money making two of its main roads less safe for cyclists than they were. It has reduced the original two lanes to one, thus inducing rage as well as danger, and also driving motorists into the quiet side streets where it was even safer for cyclists.
    The stupiditiy of this wasteful and irresponsible act has united motorists and cyclists as never before.

  • In2minds

    More cycling, not before time. I’ve cycled all my life, however I’m mostly
    a pedestrian, we all are. I also ride a motorcycle, drive and use
    public transport. So I reject the concept of ‘them and us’ for road
    users. The idea that other drivers need to be taught, ‘how to deal
    with cyclists’.

    is so typical of the general attitude in the UK, on any subject,
    divisions are assumed. And then by well-intentioned, but wrong
    attempts to get rid of these divisions they end up being reinforced.

    now for a bit of cheek! I assume your All-Party
    Parliamentary Cycling Group would like a bit hands-on research? The
    get over to Zurich and see how it’s done there. My young relatives,
    nervous about cycling in London when they start university, say
    cycling is so much easier in Zurich.

    • rosie

      And in Japan. But then the public transport is superb there too, as it is in Switzerland.

      • rosie

        No-one wears a helmet in Japan. They look really elegant and unharassed on their bikes.

  • SimonToo

    “I have been pushing for [HGVs] to be fitted with mirrors and sensors so they know when a cyclist might be in their ‘blind spot’. Turning alarms and safety bars would also offer cyclists greater protection.”

    But how many eyes does the driver have? Cyclist will go into those blind spots willy-nilly – it is a form of practical test for the Darwin awards. First and foremost, cyclists must take responsibility for themselves. Cycling is pretty safe so long as cyclists do not ride like plonkers. What is not needed is more regulation and coercion. We could probably do with fewer cycle lanes as well – all too many of them give naive cyclists a false sense of secfurity.

    By the way, I write as a pedestrian, a cyclist, a driver and a Londoner.

    • David Ossitt

      First and foremost, cyclists must take responsibility for themselves.

      Well said sir.

  • TonyB58

    As a driver of over thirty years experience there is no way that you would get me to ride a bike in London (Copenhagen yes). I know how vulnerable cyclist are and life is challenging enough without ending up under a juggernaut! And what about cyclists? Many of the self-righteous rascals consider that the highway code doesn’t apply to them so all other road users and pedestrians must give way to them. An old friend of mine who uses a stick has on a number of occasions nearly been knocked for six by youths illegally riding bikes on the pavements or at pedestrian lights by Lycra clad ****s, who you just know are either estate agents or something in the City!

    Also a 20mph speed limit is idiotic. Modern cars are not built to operate properly at that speed and what about pollution from juddering engines on the environment? Sorry I forgot. The “environment” was New Labour’s wheeze to screw more taxes out of us. So lets see the Coalition really do something radical that will unclog our roads and save the environment; take all public transport over for the nation and the slash fairs (subsidized by consolidating all the “green” taxes we already pay into one environment tax) ? No I thought not.

    • AnotherDaveB

      London is if anything a safer environment for cycling. The traffic is slower than most towns.

  • Noa

    Mr Huppert freewheels whilst Rome, Valencia and Athens burn.

    One would have thought a Conservative MP would be most worried about the Euro crisis and the Cameron/Osborne Plan for mitigating the UK’s enormous risks in the forthcoming crash.
    Your concerns about cyclists, laudable though they may be, will vanish like the cars that cause them as we are all reduced to this Maoist preferred form of transport.

    • Coffeehousewall

      Surely Julian Huppert is a LibDem MP, and is therefore unconcerned with the real problems facing most people, and is especially committed to spending as much of our money as possible on wasteful schemes such as a ‘Cycle Commissar’ in every council.

      • Coffeehousewall

        And of course the provision of space for a LibDem MP is part of the business plan of the Barclay Brothers to reposition the Spectator as a LibDem publication.

        • rosie

          Has anyone seen the Barclays on their bikes in the last few decades?

  • echo34

    Lootery funded cyclopark local to me charges £2 for two hours of cycling around their tarmac. No spelling mistakes there.

    Oh yes they want you to get out there and exercise but they want your money more.

    Incidentally the park is built next to a two mile cycle path which you can use for free. The local council haven’t a clue.

    • Noa

      ‘Lootery’ may be a spelling mistake actually looks and feels right, as we see the wasted funds splurged on the Government’s showpiece Olympics.

  • Mudplugger

    The ‘government’ will not make cycling safer itself. It requires all road-users, be they cars, bikes, buses, trucks, pedestrians etc. to realise it’s a shared space, one in which we all need to conduct ourselves with awareness and responsibility.
    Cycling currently is, however, anarchy, certainly in city centres, with flagrant disregard for both rules and sense. This anarchy requires regulation.
    First step is compulsory identification, a registration plate – without that, there can be no policing, and with no pain, there’s no gain.
    Second is compulsory third-party insurance – a cyclist can cause as much consequence as a vehicle, so let’s make sure they can pay.
    Third is compulsory basic training – something like Bikeability – providing a ‘license’ which may then be endorsed or withdrawn.
    Only then would we have the basis on which to build a class of road-user who may be relied upon to behave correctly or pay the penalty.
    On that scale, helmets are trivial – leave that to personal choice, just sort out the big issues.

    • Jon B

      Have you seen the vehicle accident stats or level of exceeding the speed limit (myself included), illegal parking, mobile phone driving etc. All of the things you advocate to make cyclists ‘honest road users’ have failed significantly and consistently to do the same with drivers.

  • Anne Wotana Kaye 1

    Until packs of cyclists began to show themselves on our roads, I was convinced that huge, articulated lorries were driven by the most arrogant, careless and law-breaking bunch of fellows possible. Now, I see that there are even worse than these heavy weights domineering the roads. Cyclists are in dire need of training, indeed I believe that anyody who uses a machine, even a cycle, should pass a test and receive a licence if he/she is competent. The stupidity and arriogance of cyclists has caused me to be nearly run over when crossing the road on a pedestrian crossing whilst the lights were in my favour. An elderly aunt was actually seriously injured by a cyclist failing to observe the highway code. This imbecile mounted the pavement and brought a ninety-year old woman to the ground. He escaped punishment by speedily movig away, and in any case there were naturally no police around. Common courtesy and obeying the rules I believe are more important than this modern obsession with helmets. If helmets are compulsory, what about knee pads, and those grotesque ‘shoulder pads’ worn in American ballgames?

  • Justathought

    In California if a pedestrian or cyclist is hit by a car the burden of proof rests with the driver to prove he was not at fault. The number of accidents were drastically reduced. As an unexpected bonus changing the burden of proof reduces the overall number of accidents.

    That said as a pedestrian I am more likely to be run over by a cyclist than a car!

    • Nicholas

      Overturns an ancient principle of English law that the accused must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that began to be overturned some time ago because switching the burden of proof suits the state better.

      We could call it Wiggins Law and Cameron could devote a whole sanctimonious sermon to it.

      • PhippyNoCar

        As much as I disagree with most of what you have posted here, I do agree with you on this.

    • Jon B

      Last paragraph: *open mouthed incredulity* Can you provide the data to back that up because the official DfT stats significantly contradict your suggestion

      • Jimmy R

        Only because Cyclist/Pedestrian collisions, and similarly collisions between pedestrians, are not recorded in the same way as road traffic accidents involving motor vehicles. A motorist even slightly injuring a pedestrian will almost certainly be reported whilst a cyclist inflicting the same injury will almost certainly not be reported.
        It says a lot that cyclists suffer a quarter of the number of road deaths that pedestrians, an even more vulnerable group, suffer yet there are far more than four times the number of pedestrians, many multiples more, than there are cyclists.
        The fact that a disproportionate high number of cyclists are killed on our roads when compared with the massively greater number of pedestrians who use our roads says a lot about the often poor attitude and the lack of care taken by cyclists. If people cycling took the same amount of care as people walking when using our roads there4 would be far fewer cyclists being killed and injured, even if blaming everybody else is the easy way out.

  • Robert Evans

    Not a word about the buggers who cycle at speed in pedestrian areas terrifying mothers struggling with prams/toddlers, but then what would an MP know about our local towns ?

    • alexsandr

      nor the clans of cyclists on rural roads who effectively block the road by riding 3 abreast
      and the cyclists who cut corners at junctions in front of cars

      and don’t get me started on the lunatic actions of motorcyclists.

      there again car drivers are no better. Why do they not think indicating exiting at roundabout is helpful.

      • echo34

        I’ll probably regret this alexandr but next time they fail to indicate, pull out on the twits, it normally starts the grey stuff ticking for them.

        • Hex