Cycle safety: make it simple

Cycle safety: make it simple
The final Commons debate of the year highlighted the failures of the justice system to road crash victims
Cycling UK wants more people cycling more safely. More than 10,000 people have supported Cycling UK's ‘Cycle safety: make it simple’ report which sets out a blueprint for how to achieve this by improving cyclists’ safety and making it feel safer at the same time. Now we need the Government to listen, and then act upon our recommendations, some of which would be simple to implement and you have to ask: why wouldn’t you do it?

The Cycling and Walking Safety Review

On 01 June 2018, the Whitehall Government finished its consultation on what would make not just cycling and walking safer, but also feel safer. Cycling UK's 'Cycle safety: make it simple' campaign ensured 10,105 responded in support of our recommendations.

Our message is ‘make it simple’, and we’ve prepared a detailed response outlining what’s needed to remove the deterrents which put people off cycling, so that cycling in the UK becomes a safe and normal activity for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

Or perhaps, as the road safety Minister Jesse Norman puts it in the foreword to his call for evidence, to make cycling “the natural form of transport even for a 12 year old”.


Read the call for evidence

Our ambition in this review goes much further still: to make cycling the natural mode of transport even for a 12 year old.

Jesse Norman, Road Safety Minister

What is Cycling UK doing?

We've already published an executive summary response: our Cycle safety: make it simple report. This includes a range of simple solutions to support the Government's ambitions to double cycle use and increase walking, while reducing fatal and serious injuries for cyclists and other road users.

Although the delivery of some of our solutions would be matters for the devolved countries, most are relevant throughout much of the UK, so it’s vital that everyone who cares about active travel across the UK makes their voice heard.


Read our Cycle Safety: Make It Simple report


Read our submission to the Department for Transport

Why wouldn’t you …?

Simple, obvious and straightforward

Our report sets out what has to change to make people think and feel that cycling is safe, so they can then embrace it as a natural means of both transport and recreation.

But as some of these measures aren’t as complex as many might think, we’re saying to Government just do it, and asking ‘Why wouldn’t you...?’

"We occasionally say that something is as easy as riding a bike to convey the message that a task is simple, obvious and straightforward. That’s the theme of this report, because some measures to improve cycle safety really should be easy to implement – as easy as riding a bike, so easy that you’d have to ask: why wouldn’t you do it?"


Jon Snow, Cycling UK President

Cycle-friendly design guidance

One agreed standard

Currently, highway and traffic engineers are expected to follow a mass of unclear and conflicting design guidance on cycle provision. This often results in poor and inconsistent design, which is confusing to drivers and cyclists alike, and often downright dangerous.

Instead, we need a single consistent source of cycle-friendly design guidance covering specific provision for cycling.

The guidance should apply to all road and junction types, all highway and traffic schemes, all new developments and indeed to planned highway maintenance works.

Given the Government’s ‘Public Sector Equality Duty’, the guidance also needs to address the fact that children, older people, women and people with disabilities are particularly deterred from cycling under current conditions.

Why wouldn’t you have a standard design for all cycle lanes and infrastructure no matter where you are in the country?

"Current designs and standards vary enormously across the country. We need one agreed standard to which all local authorities must conform."


Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive, Cycling UK


Disproportionate cuts

Cycling UK strongly believes that all road users should respect the rules of the road. To achieve this, education and enforcement measures must be pursued hand-in-hand, as shown by half a century’s experience of tackling drink driving.

This approach has also been shown to work by the West Midlands Police’s ‘Operation Close Pass’, which uses an educational ground-mat to explain to drivers how to overtake cyclists safely. Without enforcement however, educational messages can be undermined, and that means roads policing needs to be given a higher priority.

Visible roads policing is known to be a highly effective road safety measure, because the fear of being caught influences people’s driving standards far more than the severity of any punishment. Despite this, roads policing has faced disproportionate cuts in recent years.

Cycling UK suspects this may explain, at least partly, why a long-term downward trend in road casualty numbers has recently halted, while serious cycle and motorcycle casualty numbers have started rising.

Why wouldn’t you want more traffic officers policing our roads, reducing the number of casualties and making the roads safer for everyone?

"Roads policing has faced disproportionate cuts in recent years with the number of dedicated officers outside London falling by 48% in England and Wales since 2004, and serious injuries to cyclists and motorcyclists starting to rise."


Ned Boulting, TV presenter, commentator and cyclist

Road traffic offences and penalties review

Ridiculously lenient penalties

Whether someone is prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving is often something of a lottery, as are the resulting sentences, leaving many victims and their relatives feeling massively let down by the justice system’s failure to reflect the seriousness of bad driving.

What’s needed is a review of how irresponsible behaviour on our roads is dealt with. The current legal framework where behaviour is classified as either ‘dangerous’, ‘careless’, or ‘just one of those things’, is inconsistently applied, unclear, and simply not fit for purpose.

The Government’s cycle safety consultation asks about changes to laws or rules relating to road safety and their enforcement. Cycling UK believes this requires a full review of all road traffic offences and penalties, looking at the careless and dangerous driving distinction, driver disqualification and other gaps in the law.

The Ministry of Justice promised such a review four years ago, but we’re still waiting. It’s time for action.

Why wouldn’t you change a system that allows people convicted of dangerous driving to get back on the road without proving they’re safe to drive?

"Too often drivers who have committed serious offences with terrible consequences face ridiculously lenient penalties, and are often free to drive again within a few weeks or months."


Darrell Martin, brother of Lee Martin who tragically died whilst cycling

He was hit from behind by a driver texting at the wheel – something the driver had been caught for eight times before

Highway Code changes

The Dutch Reach

The Highway Code hasn’t been fully revised for over 10 years. Some of the simple changes that are needed include:

Junction priority

Most continental countries oblige traffic to give way to cyclists and pedestrians going straight ahead at junctions, even where the turning traffic has a green traffic light. New rules on junction priority would improve cyclist and pedestrian safety and could be introduced initially via the Highway Code.

Overtaking distances

The rules on overtaking and the distance to give cyclists when overtaking are not widely understood, and it would help if the rules cited a guideline of 1.5m as a safe overtaking distance at speeds up to 30mph, with a greater distance needed at higher speeds and in bad weather.

Dutch Reach and opening car doors safely

The Dutch Reach involves opening the door with the hand on the opposite side to the door itself, e.g. using your left hand to open a door on your right. This forces you to turn your body, giving you a better chance of seeing an approaching cyclist and restricting how far the door can be opened.

Why wouldn’t you change the Highway Code to include a simple technique that would stop hundreds of cyclists being knocked off their bikes every year?

"By introducing the Dutch Reach into the Highway Code, drivers would learn to always check over their shoulder before opening their car doors. It can be learned in seconds and costs nothing."


Jeff Boulton, father of Sam Boulton

He died after being knocked off his bike by someone opening their car door without looking.

Direct vision lorries

Wrap-around glass

Heavy goods vehicles account for 3.6% of non-motorway motor-vehicle mileage on Britain’s roads, yet they’re involved in around 18% of cyclist fatalities and 14% of pedestrian fatalities. The problem is worse in urban areas where lorries are involved in a quarter of cyclist deaths and in well over half of cyclist deaths in London, where they account for just 4% of miles driven.

Many urban cycling fatalities or serious injuries involve left-turning lorries, partly because most lorry cabs place the driver high off the ground surrounded by metal rather than glass. Compared with buses, it’s far harder for lorry drivers to see cyclists or pedestrians alongside or in front of them.

New cab designs are however now available which give the driver a much better view of their surroundings without having to resort to mirrors, cameras and sensors.

Prompted by Cycling UK’s campaigning, Transport for London (TfL) has developed a ‘road-map’ to progressively restrict unsuitable lorries from using the city’s streets. TfL also plans to adopt a ‘direct vision standard’ for lorry cabs, which Cycling UK believes should be a model implemented nationally.

Why wouldn’t you require all lorries to be fitted with all-round vision glass that eliminates dangerous blind spots to reduce cycling and pedestrian deaths?

"Lorry blind spots are known to contribute to many fatal and serious injury collisions where drivers fail to see more vulnerable road users – but wrap-around glass could make a huge difference, particularly in busy cities."


Cynthia Barlow OBE, Chair of RoadPeace, the road victims’ charity

Cynthia’s daughter Alex McVitty was killed by a left-turning lorry in London.


Towns and cities to be proud of

The Government’s transport spending plans currently propose a rapid increase in roads investment, while the tiny annual allocations for its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) are currently set to decline. This is contrary to its aim to make cycling and walking a safe and normal option for short journeys, and to maximise their health, environmental and other benefits.

Cycling UK believes the Government should rebalance overall transport spending, with a far greater proportion being invested in healthy and sustainable local transport solutions, such as walking and cycling networks and safer streets, including local road maintenance.

This would improve road safety for everyone, but particularly for children, older people, those on lower incomes or with disabilities, who may be more dependent on non-motorised travel. It would also help tackle wider problems such as congestion, pollution, physical inactivity and climate change.

Why wouldn’t you want better cycle lanes and infrastructure to make cycling safer?

"By separating lorries and buses from school children and commuters on bikes, we would encourage more people out of their cars and create healthier, more pleasant streets, towns and cities."


Sajida Somani, Balsall Heath Community Cycle Club