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'Cities fit for cycling' - a bit of a backlash?

Chris Peck's picture
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The Times' campaign to improve safety was widely welcomed and many have come out in support, but criticism of the aims and execution was inevitable. CTC's main concern is that the campaign doesn't acknowledge the health benefits of cycling.
Cities fit for cycling logo
Cities fit for cycling logo

Most non-cyclists when asked why they don't cycle will probably list one of the main reasons as 'it's too dangerous!' This perception of danger often rests on poor understanding of the actual risks - usually most non-cyclists only view of cycling is through their windscreen as they nervously try to overtake a vulnerable looking cyclist at the side of the road. However, some of those concerns are justified: you may be less likely to die in a mile cycling than a mile walking, but you are even less likely to be killed while driving.

CTC has always tried to keep a balance between sending out messages dissuading people that cycling is dangerous and communicating to policy makers and cyclists the areas in which safety needs to be improved.

CTC has always tried to keep a balance between sending out messages dissuading people that cycling is dangerous and communicating to policy makers and cyclists the areas in which safety needs to be improved. We've always tried to do this by focusing the former on the general public (through national newspapers, magazines or other media) and the latter through lobbying activities and cycle-specific media outlets. Our 'Stop Smidsy' campaign was very much aimed at existing cyclists and we consciously decided to avoid opening this up to the general media.

Things therefore got a little tricky when The Times launched their 'Cities fit for cycling' campaign, which very much had a 'cycling is dangerous' theme. CTC has tried to moderate this line but it may be that the impression of danger caused by the campaign is likely to do considerable damage to the impression of cycling amongst the general public.

Let's hope the benefit from changes to policy that the campaign requests are extensive enough to be worthwhile. Given that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks 20:1, measures to improve the safety of cyclists are always unlikely to generate overall health benefits if they also tend to put people off cycling through making it appear dangerous.

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