Thursday, 14 April 2011

Is Dangerous Cycling a Problem in Birmingham?

MPs could introduce a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling. But how much of a danger do cyclists really pose on the nation's roads? Cyclists have been labeled as "lycra louts", jumping red lights, hurtling past pedestrians on pavements and denying the Highway Code applies to them. The debate is currently being held over whether new crimes of causing death or serious injury through dangerous or reckless cycling should become law, but this should actually help open up the debate over road safety overall.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), in 2009 no pedestrians were killed in Great Britain by cyclists, but 426 died in collisions with motor vehicles out of a total of 2,222 road fatalities. Bike riders insist it is they who are vulnerable. Of the 13,272 collisions between cycles and cars in 2008, 52 cyclists died but no drivers were killed. Furthermore, every year in this country around 17,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents. Therefore, the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by cyclists are relatively rare in comparison.

The same is true in Birmingham. The number of cyclists injured in Birmingham compared to the number of people injured by cyclists is vastly different. No information could be found of anyone being injured by cyclists but a plethora of articles were found on cyclists being seriously injured or killed in road accidents. It was noted there were 340 deaths or serious injuries in 2004, rising to 401 in 2007. Furthermore, it has been recorded that fewer people are being injured on Birmingham roads – but more are being killed. During the period January-September 2009 there were 2,316 traffic accidents where people were hurt in Birmingham, compared to 2,627 in the same period in 2008.

Tony Armstrong, chief executive of Living Streets, which represents pedestrians, says that while most cyclists behave safely, it should not be ignored that "a significant minority cause concern and fear among pedestrians by their reckless and irresponsible behaviour". Discussions will continue on this topic, but in Birmingham the main need for action is around protecting cyclists and encouraging more people to take up regular cycling, rather than protecting people from cyclists.

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