OpenStreetMap

It is not safe to cycle in Britain (a rant).

Posted by ika-chan! UK-USA on 5 February 2016 in English (English).

In the wake of a serious act of driver brutality against a cyclist, in which the police were unable to specifically prosecute, I feel that it is not safe to cycle in the UK today, because the infrastructure that is required to enable safe cycling without a helmet or any of that extraneous gear is either not there, or it is at best too piecemeal to be considered “safe”.

Having surveyed London streets for OSM, it is unsurprising that the London Cycle Network and its signage is far too piecemeal to enable safe cycling without a helmet or any of that extraneous gear: there cycling in the UK is not user-friendly but instead like playing Russian Roulette. It is unsurprising that Netherlands is so ahead of us in the provision of cycling infrastructure, to a point where helmets and other extraneous gear are a mere sports thing over there.

Therefore, I think that in the UK, the car and the bus is still the king. With all the aggression against cyclists in the UK (just look at all those videos on YouTube!), this is why I feel that it is not safe to cycle in Britain at all, and non-drivers may be better of with public transport, until the government provides the right infrastructure so that cycling is no longer like playing Russian Roulette.

Location: Canonbury, London Borough of Islington, London, Islington, Greater London, England, N1, United Kingdom

Comment from Richard on 6 February 2016 at 10:34

“Not safe at all”? Don’t be daft.

Are you at risk on a bike? Of course you are. The risk varies from place to place, from road to road. But extrapolating the bad shit that happens - and I wouldn’t deny it does - to the one-in-six lethal odds of Russian Roulette is utterly disproportionate.

Yes, things need to get better. But try driving across London instead and watch what that does to your blood pressure and general life expectancy. The bike is still the best choice for sub-5 mile journeys, most places, most of the time - especially if you’re canny about your route choices, which is where OSM comes in.

And if you’ll now excuse me I have an awesome cargo bike project to build up.

Comment from Brian Ronald on 7 February 2016 at 14:36

Cycling is more dangerous in the UK than in the Netherlands, that’s indisputable. It isn’t categorically unsafe to cycle, though.

Sure, PPE makes life safer if you have to cycle in traffic, but that’s no reason to swear off it. The chances of being killed on the road are still much less than the chances of being killed by a sedentary lifestyle.

As for aggression from other road users, I suspect that’s a side effect of having a smaller number of cyclists, which is in turn a side effect of our poor infrastructure. As more people decide it’s too dangerous, a greater proportion of those who continue to cycle are foolhardy and aggressive. This leads to a disproportionate amount of negative interactions with other road users.

To get better infrastructure, we need to demand it, and be seen to use what’s already there. We can’t just wait for it to happen. Hiding away in cars or on mass transit demonstrates to planners only that we prefer not to cycle. It’s also a good way to become less fit.

Comment from ika-chan! UK-USA on 8 February 2016 at 14:20

Even in the UK, it is my personal opinion that cycling is only safe if people don’t have to dress up like Tour de France riders: that does not make any sense.

What I saw in the Netherlands last year makes me feel how behind the UK is at present.

Comment from Brian Ronald on 10 February 2016 at 16:33

I don’t dress like a Tour de France rider (I wear my office clothes) but I do sling on a high vis vest. Not because cycling is dangerous per se, but because roads are dangerous. I also wear that vest when walking after dark, because pedestrians aren’t a whole lot safer from traffic.

The Netherlands has the issue nailed, of course. If cycles and motor vehicles are kept apart, they don’t get in each others’ way. This takes political willpower, though, and Amsterdam had to sustain a number of child deaths (both pedestrian and cyclist) before there was enough of that.

The Netherlands is proof that it is possible to drag a country from a nightmare dystopia of cars, car parks and danger. Their cycling revolution came much later than most people think.

Comment from Peter Mead on 2 March 2016 at 14:49

Why do you consider a cycle helmet to be extraneous? Do you consider seat belts and air-bags in cars extraneous too?

Comment from ika-chan! UK-USA on 2 March 2016 at 16:22

I had an accident in the rain before due to over-reactive brakes, sometime in 2012, and I fell on my hand and arms first and not my head. I don’t usually go over 16-20 km/h for health reasons.


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