One worry that constantly haunts me about cycling is the danger posed by other road users, particularly by a small albeit seemingly growing band of motorists who appear to lack any consideration for anyone who might also wish to occupy the road space they want to consume. This week, cycling was in the news for the attempts by backbench MP Andrea Leadsom to introduce legislation to create an offence of death by dangerous driving. I have been torn by this move: on one hand I will not condone the action of wilfully negligent cyclists who feel they have a right to claim the road and, more particularly, the pavement as their own; on the other hand there is a strong feeling as a cyclist that we are perhaps the group most in need of legislating against. Let me put it this way, I am happy to disown the cyclist that wants to run red lights and to cycle without a care at break neck speed along a pavement. Just as I have complained about the selfishness of some motorists, these type of cyclists give the rest of us a bad name, they need to re-evaluate their responsibilities and learn to share space with other users. But is the real concern about a specific crime of death by dangerous cycling. Firstly, the statistics do not suggest there is a major problem in this regard.Secondly, surely prosecution can surely be brought under existing legislation if only the law experts looked at this. What the statistics do reveal is the danger posed to both cyclists and pedestrians from motor vehicles. The front page of yesterday’s Independent was a chilling reminder of this.
There is already legislation on statute design to make our roads safer: roads have speed limits, you cannot drink and drive, you cannot use a mobile device whilst driving. The success in implementing and policing this legislation is already patchy. Therefore, will adding another piece of legislation make any difference? I doubt it. Rather than legislate, why not take some action. The London Cycling Campaign has put forward a 9 step plan for safer cycling. The majority do relate to motor traffic. Some might already be legislated for elsewhere – surely responsibilities of HGV owners and drivers is covered in road traffic regulations and under the auspices of Health and Safety legislation? Some, like reducing speed limits in built up areas has been proposed by a range of groups. But equally there is a role for awareness amongst cyclists. Partly it is our role as cyclists to disown and/or re-educate the inconsiderate minority, though I agree this is easier said than done. But at the same time schemes such as bikeability have a crucial role to play in educating children how to use the roads confidently and respectfully. Now, bikeability is a scheme that was co-ordinated by Cycling England and run through local authorities. The sharp ones amongst you will have realised a problem here – Cycling England has been wound up in the bonfire of the Quangos and local authorities have had their budgets cut, both of which instigated by the coalition, of which Ms Leadsom is a backbench member. So this is my problem: rather than create headlines with a piece of un-needed legislation, why don’t Ms Leadsom and her supporters pressure the government into taking real action. In part this is the implementation of existing legislation to protect cyclists and pedestrians. But this is only part of the story and the solution is through the real action needed to improve skills and awareness through training. Like so many things this will take time and resources. However, as they say, action speaks louder than word and for once the politicians could work with what they’ve got.