This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 73.
In Newsletter 71 we published an article ‘Examining legality’ which looked at some of the causes of illegal cycling and what might be done about them. Here I want to put illegal cycling into some sort of perspective.
First of all, can we get rid of the term ‘lycra lout’? Most lycra-clad cyclists are serious, experienced cyclists. They generally wear a helmet and cycle on the road to get from A to B fast and efficiently. Cycling illegally or even legally on the pavement would be anathema to most of them.
Secondly, remember that every person cycling is not in a car. Even cyclists illegally on pavements are doing their bit for the carbon footprint and are not contributing to congestion and pollution.
According to popular belief it would seem that the two cardinal sins that cyclists commit are cycling on pavement where cycling is not permitted and jumping red lights. Of course cyclists should obey the law and should cycle with due regard for others. Of course it can be unnerving and occasionally even physically harmful for walkers to have a cyclist career by on a pavement or path – particularly if the pedestrian is frail, hard of hearing or partially sighted. But are these rogues serious sinners compared to others on the highways? Statistics tell a different story.
Figures covering the years 2001-2005 provided to the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club) by Transport for London show that in London there were on the pavement 2197 reported pedestrian injuries arising from collisions with motor vehicles, including 17 fatalities. These injuries outnumbered those involving cycles by a factor of 42 to 1. The total number of reported pedestrian injuries in London due to collisions with cyclists on pavements was just 65 in the year 2001 and 69 in 2005. In the meantime, the figure went down, up and back down again, showing no clear overall trend. This was despite a 72% increase in cycle use over the period.
Transport for London also released some data about fatalities in London arising from red light jumping in the same five years. These show that, during that period, two cyclists were killed in London while jumping red lights. However, during the same time:
- 7 motorbikers died jumping red lights (one of these collisions also killed a car driver)
- 3 cyclists were killed by drivers jumping red lights
- 7 pedestrians were killed by drivers jumping red lights.
National figures from the Department for Transport show that in 2001-2005, 236 pedestrians were killed in collisions involving motor vehicles on the footway or verge as compared to just one involving a cyclist.
I’m not condoning bad behaviour by cyclists. Cyclists should certainly obey the law and be considerate to other highway users. I don’t want to see pedestrians injured or alarmed, but I do think that pedestrians would be better served by campaigns to control vehicle speeds and other infringements of the law by drivers, rather than emphasising the relatively harmless misdemeanours of a minority of cyclists.
Figures in this article are extracted from articles by Doug Briggs in the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign newsletter ‘Pothole’.