Research out today by road safety charity Brake, finds far more people would be persuaded to cycle if there were facilities to enable them to do so in safety.

While cycling is becoming increasingly popular, the survey reveals that many people who don't cycle are put off because of safety fears in their area. The survey of 800 adults questioned revealed that:

·  71% of respondents never cycle on roads and more than half (59%) never cycle at all

·  However, 34% of people who don't currently cycle would cycle between home and local amenities if there were cycle paths and trails connecting them

·  This means that with investment in safe cycling facilities, an additional 20% of adults could be persuaded to get on their bikes to improve their health and reduce carbon emissions and congestion, improving the likelihood of children cycling more too.

While cycling has many health benefits, cyclists continue to face major risks on the road that urgently need to be addressed. In Britain in 2009, cyclists made up 0.5% of traffic, yet accounted for 5% of deaths and 11% of serious injuries on roads. 104 people were killed while cycling on roads and 2,710 suffered serious injuries such as paralysis, loss of limbs or serious head traumas. While the overall number of road causalities has been decreasing year on year, the number of cyclist deaths and injuries has not. In 2009, the number of serious injuries sustained by cyclists increased by 6%.

While the piloting of cycling towns in England has shown that investment in safer cycling routes can help to increase levels of cycling by around 27%, only 17 towns and one city have benefitted from this scheme, benefitting local populations of around 2.5 million adults and children or just 5% of the population in England. The recent abolition of Cycling England could put even this progress at risk

Julie Townsend, campaigns director of Brake, said: "Cycling is an enjoyable, sustainable and healthy way of getting around and Brake wants to encourage more people to get on their bikes. However, it is vital that the Government is committed to making cycling as safe as possible and reduce the unacceptable number of cyclist deaths and serious injuries that occur each year. This research shows that if we want more people to cycle, we need to invest in safe cycle routes and schemes that protect cyclists. The message is clear: let´s encourage cycling by providing more traffic-free routes and other measures such as 20mph limits to enable people to get on their bikes in much greater safety."


Recommendations to government

The government is committed to encouraging people to get on their bikes to improve levels of fitness and reduce CO2. It has also outlined its intention to prioritise cyclist safety in its recently-published strategic framework for road safety, acknowledging that the UK lags behind other European countries in protecting cyclists. Brake believes that the government has the responsibility to make sure that cyclists are not subject to unacceptably high levels of risk when they take to the road.

Brake is calling on the government to invest in more engineering measures to help prevent cycling crashes. We need more traffic-free and segregated cycle paths, especially on commuter routes and connecting homes with local facilities, and widespread 20mph limits in communities. The government is due to issue guidance to local authorities on setting urban speed limits within the next 6-12 months and Brake is calling for it to encourage city or town wide 20mph limits.

These measures would enable more people to adopt this healthy and green means of travel without having to run the gauntlet of dangerous roads.

Brake also advocates regulation for compulsory cycle helmet wearing as international evidence from New Zealand shows that it can increase the rate of cycle helmet wearing and reduces the rate of head injuries both off and on-road. However, this should be delivered alongside a much more comprehensive off-road cycle network, and 20mph limits in town and low-limit rural roads too, to encourage and enable more people to cycle in safety.

Case study

Mick Garner, 61, was a postman coming to the end of his career after a dedicated service. He delivered the mail on his bicycle to the same streets for 33 years. He lived in Margate and had a loving wife and a grown up son. 

On his way to the depot at 3.45am on the morning of 14 May 2010, his bicycle was struck by lorry driver Steven Hole, 45. Hole did not see Mick until the very last minute when he swerved to avoid him, but the lorry struck the bike, knocking Mick to the floor where he suffered serious head injuries and died later in Margate Hospital.

Hole pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mick Garner by careless driving and was given a 10 month sentence, a three year driving ban and ordered to do an extended driving test before re-qualifying.

Mick's son, John Garner, said: "My dad knew the route, he had his lights on and he was cycling as a cyclist should in the well-lit area of Margate seafront. My dad being killed has devastated my family; it's very hard to accept that he is gone. I fully support this campaign for safer cycling facilities. Cyclists are vulnerable road users and more should be done to protect them."

Posted: 15.19pm, 23.05.11