road safety

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Road safety and cycling: Overview

'More' as well as 'safer' cycling can and should go hand-in-hand...
Cyclist wait at junction
Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is essentially a safe activity, causing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users. Moreover, there is good evidence that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’, with cycling becoming safer as cycle use increases. 
  • However, fear of road traffic is a major deterrent, despite the health, environmental and other benefits of cycling. 61% of people surveyed on their attitudes agreed or strongly agreed that “it is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads." (2011 British Social Attitudes Survey).
  • Actual cycle safety in the UK lags behind many of our continental neighbours, because of poorly designed roads and junctions, traffic volumes and speeds, irresponsible driving, and a legal system that fails to respond adequately to road danger. 
  • National and local government should therefore aim for ‘more’ as well as ‘safer’ cycling – the two aims can and should go hand-in-hand.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Road safety strategies, nationally and locally, should recognise that:
    • Cycling is a safe activity, posing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users
    • The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks involved 
    • Cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are: the ‘safety in numbers’ effect 
    • The aim of cycle safety policies and initiatives should be to encourage more as well as safer cycling, in order to maximise its health, environmental and other benefits, and to improve overall safety for all road users
  • Encouraging more as well as safer cycling involves tackling factors that deter cycle use. These include high traffic volumes and speeds; irresponsible driver behaviour; the unfriendly design of many roads and junctions; and lorries. 
  • The provision of cycle training to the national standard can also help people to cycle more, to ride more safely, and to feel safer and more confident while doing so. It can also help parents feel more confident about allowing their children to cycle. 
  • Increases in cyclist casualties may still mean cycle safety is improving if cycle use is increasing more steeply than cyclist casualties. Therefore targets and indicators for the effectiveness of road safety strategies should adopt ‘rate-based’ measures for improvements in cycle safety, e.g. cycle casualties (or fatal and serious injuries) per million km cycled, or per million trips. Simple casualty reduction targets should be avoided. 
  • ‘Perception-based’ indicators, which show whether public perceptions of cycle safety in a given area are getting better, can be used alongside ‘rate-based’ indicators, or as an interim substitute for the latter if necessary. 
  • Care should be taken to avoid cycle safety awareness campaigns that ‘dangerise’ cycling. These deter people from cycling or allowing their children to cycle and are counter-productive because they erode the ‘safety in numbers’ effect, as well as undermining the activity’s wider health and other benefits.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
December 2013
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Traffic police and other enforcement agencies

More effective traffic policing is crucial for cyclists, and also helps tackle one of the biggest fears that many others have about taking up cycling in the first place - namely, bad driving...
Cyclist and police car
Headline Messages: 
  • In the interests of road safety and traffic law enforcement, there should be more traffic police, well designed incident reporting systems and the commitment to investigate all collisions thoroughly, particularly those involving non-motorised users.
  • The Health and Safety Executive and other enforcement agencies with road safety responsibilities should prioritise these more highly and be adequately resourced to do so.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Investing in roads policing is highly effective, not only for promoting road safety, but also in tackling other forms of crime. It should be prioritised by national government and included in all overarching policing strategies and plans (e.g. the Strategic Priority Requirement in England and Wales). This would strengthen the case for individual police forces throughout the UK and Police and Crime Commissioners (England and Wales) to give it the priority it deserves.    
  • Police and Crime Commissioners and local authority crime reduction/safety partnerships must prioritise speeding, dangerous driving and other road traffic offences as key issues to address.
  • The police should always refer serious injury collisions up to the prosecution service for a charging decision, not just those that result in a fatality. If they do not charge or decide not to refer the case, the police should be required to explain their decision systematically.
  • The police should avoid simply sending offending drivers on speed awareness or other remedial courses instead of prosecuting them.  Such courses should be available as court sanctions, not as an alternative to prosecution.
  • The police should be trained so that they understand the practical and legal issues facing cyclists and other non-motorised users.
  • Wherever possible, the police should respond to any reported collision involving a cyclist or pedestrian by:
    • Attending  the scene, taking statements and gathering evidence from witnesses;
    • Investigating incidents that result in very serious injury as thoroughly as those that result in death – the name of the College of Policing’s 'Investigating Road Deaths' manual should be changed, e.g. 'Investigating Road Crashes', to reflect the fact that it covers serious as well as fatal injuries;
    • Investigating reports of seriously bad or aggressive driving even when no injury occurs and allocating sufficient resources to do so – after all, such drivers are often involved in other criminal activity; 
    • Investigating and where possible charging motorists who fail to stop with ‘leaving the scene of the accident’.
  • The police should facilitate collision and ‘near miss’ reporting (e.g. via online systems)
  • The victims of road crashes involving unlawful driving should be entitled to the same support services that other victims of crime receive.
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should take a more proactive line over work-related road safety and should receive adequate funds to do so.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
February 2014
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Pedestrians

Even in crowded conditions, cyclists are perfectly able to mix harmoniously with pedestrians and, contrary to popular belief, they are not a major danger to them.
Cyclist and pedestrian sharing space
Headline Messages: 
  • Cyclists are perfectly able to mix harmoniously with pedestrians and, contrary to popular belief, are not a major danger to them.
  • Pedestrians are more likely to be injured or killed in collision with a motor vehicle than in collision with a cycle, even if they are walking on the verge or footway (pavement). This is all the more surprising because, unlike driving, most cycling takes place where there are high levels of pedestrian activity.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Cyclists should behave responsibly and within the law.
  • Cyclists do very little harm to other road users, including pedestrians.
  • Unlike driving, most cycling takes place in areas of high pedestrian activity, but it poses far less risk to pedestrians than motor vehicles. This is the case even for pavement cycling and red light jumping, neither of which CTC condones.
  • Cyclists and pedestrians are able to interact far more harmoniously, even in crowded conditions, than is often thought.
  • People who are frail or who suffer sensory or mobility impairments are often understandably reluctant to share space with cyclists. Trials, however, usually prove that cyclists very rarely put any pedestrian in a hazardous situation. Codes of practice - backed up as required by policing - are preferable solutions, rather than undermining the promotion of safe cycling for fear of the actions of a minority.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
January 2014
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Motorbikes

Motorcyclists and cyclists have much in common, but motorcycling poses more risk to others and does not offer the same environmental benefits...
Cyclist and motorcyclist
Headline Messages: 
  • As vulnerable road users, cyclists and motorcyclists share much common ground.
  • However, CTC is concerned that cyclists and pedestrians are more at risk from motorcycles than they are from cars. We are also concerned about the impact that more motorcycling could have on the environment. 
  • We therefore support policies to improve motorcyclists’ safety but, given the need to restrain motor traffic in general, we do not support actions intended to increase the use of motorcycles, or those that might have this effect.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC recognises that motorcyclists and cyclists share a number of road safety problems, but is concerned that cyclists and pedestrians are more at risk from PTWs than they are from cars. 
  • National and local motorcycling policies should be informed by a comprehensive, Government-led assessment of the effects that a greater take-up of motorcycling might have. This should look at its impact on:
    • the safety (both actual and perceived) of (would-be) pedestrians and cyclists
    • the promotion and attractiveness of the cleaner, healthier, quieter and more sustainable alternatives of walking and cycling
    • the environment (pollutants and noise)
    • congestion 
  • PTWs should not be allowed in bus lanes, advanced stop lines (ASLs), vehicle-restricted areas or locations where pedal cycles enjoy exemptions from vehicle restrictions. This must necessarily apply to all PTWs, as larger, faster and more polluting machines make up the majority of the PTW fleet and it is not practical to provide traffic regulation benefits for the safest and cleanest machines alone.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
January 2014
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Cyclists' behaviour and the law

Cyclists should behave responsibly and legally, but the law should recognise that they do little harm and should not have to choose between keeping safe and obeying rules...
Cyclists
Headline Messages: 
  • Cyclists should behave responsibly and within the law. However, cyclists pose little risk to others.
  • Cyclists should not have to choose between acting legally and keeping safe (e.g. children prohibited from cycling on the footway even alongside busy roads). The law and those applying it should take this into account, as should the planning and design of the road network.
  • Whilst we encourage cyclists to undertake cycle training and to have insurance cover, making training or licences compulsory for cyclists is unworkable and would deter people from cycling occasionally or giving cycling a try. It would not solve any problems and the running costs would be prohibitive.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Cyclists, like all road users, should behave responsibly and within the law.
  • The enforcement of road traffic rules, and penalties for breaching them, should be proportionate to the potential danger imposed on other people, especially vulnerable road users. This principle also applies to off-road rights of way.
  • Road traffic rules should not put cyclists in situations where they feel they must choose between acting legally and protecting their own safety. Those responsible for making and enforcing the rules must take into account the reasons behind cyclists’ offending behaviour.
  • CTC does not condone unlawful cycling on pavement (footway). However, the police should exercise discretion in the use of fixed penalty notices for pavement cycling and discriminate between those whose behaviour is dangerous and antisocial and those who are acting out of concern for their own safety without presenting any threat to others.
  • The police and others charged with applying the law should be able to send offending cyclists on training programmes as an alternative to prosecution or fixed penalty notices.
  • Highway authorities should tackle any hazardous road conditions or poor design that may explain illegal behaviour by cyclists in certain locations.
  • A system of compulsory licensing and cycle training is unworkable and unjustifiable, not least because children have the same legal rights to cycle as adults and expecting them to hold licences is impractical. While the running costs would be high (i.e. similar to schemes that apply to motor vehicles and drivers), the benefits would be negligible, and the bureaucracy involved likely to seriously deter newcomers or occasional cyclists.
  • CTC does not actively support Critical Mass, but recognises the motivation of those involved.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
January 2014
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Common driving offences

Tackling common, bad driving offences effectively would help create a safer and more attractive environment for cycling and walking....
Driver at wheel of car
Headline Messages: 

Tackling common bad driving offences effectively would help create a safer and more attractive environment for cycling and walking. In particular, the drink/drive limit should be lowered and hands-free mobile phones banned.

'Common Driving Offences' is one of a series of CTC briefings covering various aspects of traffic law and enforcement. Others consider bad driving in the context of the legal framework in general and specific aspects of it including sentencing, prosecution, the courts, the vital role of the traffic police, and driver training, testing and licencing (forthcoming).

CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 

Exceeding the speed limit

  • Speeding fines are currently too low to have any significant impact on driver behaviour.
  • Extreme speed (e.g. 20mph+ over the limit) should be treated as dangerous driving in the first instance.
  • There should be no margin over the speed limit at which a driver avoids penalty.

Drink/drug driving

  • The drink drive blood alcohol limit should be lowered from 80mg/100ml to not more than 50mg/100ml, in line with most European countries. Novice drivers should not be allowed to drink at all before driving.
  • We support the use of targeted checkpoints, but also believe that the police should be given more freedom to carry out random breath testing.
  • Alcohol interlocks should be fitted in offenders’ vehicles. If successful, the measure should be extended.
  • The definitions and standards for drug-related driving offences should relate solely to whether a drug impairs the ability to drive; it should not relate to whether it is legal to use it - i.e. over-the-counter and prescription drugs should be included.

Mobile phones

  • Use of hands-free mobile phones whilst driving should be banned.
  • More research needs to be done on the impact of other in-car distractions (e.g. SatNavs, radios, in-car computers etc). Drivers who put others in danger because they have been distracted by such devices need to be appropriately penalised.

Driving without entitlement

  • Any driver convicted of a bad driving offence whilst unlicensed or disqualified should receive a custodial sentence for the crime.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
November 2013
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Cycling under the influence

Riding whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is an offence...
Cycle and car
Headline Messages: 

This briefing explains the law on cycling under the influence of drink or drugs. It should be read in conjunction with our policies on cyclists' behaviour and the law.

CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 

Please refer to CTC's briefing on cyclists' behaviour and the law for our policies on cycling offences.

Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
November 2013
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Goods vehicles (lorries, HGVs, vans etc)

Lorries pose a disproportionate threat to cyclists. There is a range of measures that should be introduced to reduce the hazard as a matter or urgency...
Goods vehicle
Headline Messages: 
  • Reducing danger and intimidation from lorries is a key issue for improving cycle safety, especially in urban areas.
  • Goods vehicles (excluding light vans) make up only 5% of traffic in Great Britain (GB), but are on average involved in about 18% of cyclists’ road deaths per year. In 2012, goods vehicles were involved in 15% of GB pedestrian fatalities, so they pose a serious threat to them too.
  • Large goods vehicles were involved in 5 of the 14 cyclists’ fatalities in London in 2012.
  • For cyclists, collisions with lorries are far more likely to prove fatal than collisions with cars: in 2012, the cyclist was killed in nearly 25% of serious injury cyclists/goods vehicle collisions; this figure was a little over 2% for cyclists/cars. Equally, lorries were involved in just 1.5% of slight injuries to cyclists, but 19% of cyclists’ fatalities.  
  • Ways to tackle the problem include: maintaining and enforcing safe driving and vehicle standards; training and information for both cyclists and goods vehicle drivers; cycle-friendly vehicles; and road layout, routing and distribution strategies that minimise conflict, and restricting access to busy urban streets at peak times.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Goods vehicles pose a disproportionate threat to cyclists. Action must be taken by national and local government, hauliers and fleet operators, the police, the Health and Safety Executive and other enforcement agencies, as well as by individual lorry drivers and cyclists themselves.
  • Lorries pose risk to both cyclists and pedestrians, so the focus should be on lorries and lorry drivers, not just on cyclists.  Many of the following measures that would help protect cyclists, would benefit pedestrians too (NB these are not necessarily in priority order given the need for more research into their relative effectiveness – see below):
    • Ensuring that vehicles are safe and that drivers are fit to drive them. This needs to be supported by rigorous enforcement of driving and vehicle standards by the responsible agencies.
    • Cycle awareness training for drivers or, better still, actual cycle training.
    • Training for cyclists to help them interact with goods vehicles as safely as possible.
    • Publicity campaigns for drivers and cyclists alike, highlighting the hazards and how to avoid them.
    • Designing and specifying lorries to provide clear direct vision between the driving position and any pedestrians or cyclists near to the vehicle, including fitting bigger windows. To complement this (or where better direct vision is genuinely impossible to deliver effectively), other safety devices should be specified and fitted, e.g.: sensors and alarms, in-cab cameras; mirrors/lenses; side guards; external warning signs; and intelligent speed adaptation.
  • Road layouts and street furniture (e.g. ‘Trixi’ mirrors) that facilitate safe interaction.
  • Traffic management measures, routing and distribution strategies to mitigate the impact of lorries on places where people cycle or want to cycle. These include banning lorries on busy streets at certain times of the day while permitting night-time deliveries instead; establishing distribution centres on the edge of urban areas where lorries can pass loads onto smaller vehicles for onward delivery; and carrying more freight by rail and water.
  • Promoting freight cycles for goods distribution in urban areas.
  • Procurement policies, especially from public authorities, ensuring that the supply and delivery of goods and services takes the safety of vulnerable road users into account.
  • Research into the efficacy of all the above measures needs to be done, with the Department for Transport (DfT), Transport for London (TfL), other local authorities and operators all collaborating EU-wide, as required.
  • CTC opposes moves to introduce longer and/or heavier lorries on the UK roads.
  • Individual haulage companies and the associations that represent them should develop, publish, maintain and monitor strategies, action plans and fleet management practices that minimise the risks goods vehicles pose to cyclists. Where appropriate, these should be produced jointly with local authorities and enforcement agencies and be based on consultation with cyclists’ representatives.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
November 2013
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Cycle helmets

There is no justification for making helmet-wearing compulsory - it could undermine levels of cycle use and, in any case, the effectiveness of helmets is far from clear.
Cyclist
Headline Messages: 
  • CTC is opposed to both cycle helmet laws and to helmet promotion campaigns, as these are almost certainly detrimental to public health. Evidence shows that the health benefits of cycling are so much greater than the (relatively low) risks involved, that even if these measures caused only a very small reduction in cycle use, this would still almost certainly mean far more lives being lost through physical inactivity than helmets could possibly save, however effective they might be.
  • There are in any case serious doubts about the effectiveness of helmets. They are (and can only be) designed to withstand minor knocks and falls, not serious traffic collisions. Some evidence suggests they may in fact increase the risk of cyclists having falls or collisions in the first place, or suffering neck injuries. Neither enforced helmet laws nor promotion campaigns have been shown to reduce serious head injuries, except by reducing cycling. The remaining cyclists do not gain any detectable reduction in risk, and they may lose some of the benefits from 'safety in numbers'.
  • So instead of focusing on helmets, health and road safety professionals and others should promote cycling as a safe, normal, aspirational and enjoyable activity, using helmet-free role-models and imagery. Individual cyclists may sometimes choose to use helmets – either for confidence or because of the type of cycling they are doing – however they should not feel under any pressure to wear them.  For the sake of our health, it is more important to encourage people of all ages to cycle, than whether or they use a helmet when doing so.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Government and other bodies concerned with health or road safety should simply aim to encourage people to cycle, regardless or whether or not they choose to wear helmets when doing so. Enforced helmet laws cause deep and enduring reductions in cycle use, undermining its very substantial health and other benefits. Given that the risks of cycling are low – they are not greatly different from those of walking or other forms of active recreation – even a very small reduction in cycle use would be counter-productive to health and other public policy objectives, regardless of the effectiveness or otherwise of helmets. In practice, this disbenefit is potentially very substantial, not least because the deterrent effect is likely to be strongest among key target groups for physical activity promotion, e.g. women, teenagers, less well-off communities and ethnic minority groups.
  • Cycle helmets have in any case not been shown to be an effective way to reduce cyclists’ injury risks. Indeed they might even be counter-productive, by encouraging drivers or cyclists to behave less cautiously, and/or by increasing the risks of neck and other injuries. By deterring people from cycling, they may also reduce the benefits that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’.
  • Enforcing helmet laws would require levels of police activity that would be grossly disproportionate to any possible benefits. Conversely, unenforced helmet laws make no long-term difference to helmet use, and therefore cannot provide benefits in any case.
  • Road safety policies should prioritise measures that reduce the risks that deter people from cycling – traffic speeds, hostile roads and junctions, dangerous or irresponsible driving, and lorries – and offering quality cycle training for people of all ages, to give them the confidence and skills to ride safely on the roads.
  • Individuals should be free to make their own decisions about whether or not to wear helmets, with parents making these decisions in the case of younger children. Their decisions should be informed by clear information about the uncertainties over the benefits or otherwise of helmets.
  • CTC supports politicians, celebrities and other role-models who chose to cycle without wearing helmets. Far from “acting irresponsibly”, they help to boost the perception of cycling as a normal, safe, aspirational and stylish activity that anyone can do in whatever clothes they would normally be wearing.
  • Schools, employers and the organisers of non-sporting cycling events (e.g. sponsored rides) should not seek to impose helmet rules for their pupils, staff and participants respectively. These rules are not justified in terms of health and safety, they are likely to reduce both the numbers and the diversity of people who take part in cycling, and they may in some circumstances be illegal.
  • There is limited evidence on the risks involved in different types of off-road recreational cycling (from family riding to downhill mountain biking etc) and cycle sport. Likewise, evidence on the potential for helmet use to mitigate (or exacerbate) these risks is equally limited. These are in any case not matters for road safety policy.
  • For sporting events, CTC recognises the right of governing bodies to require the wearing of helmets in line with their own and international regulations for these events, given the different types of risk to which sport cyclists are exposed.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
May 2013
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Health and cycling

Cycling is good exercise and it's easy to fit into the daily routiine. If more people took it up, it could help ward off the health crises facing the NHS...
Healthy cyclist
Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is excellent exercise. More cycling will help more people meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, improve their physical and mental health and well-being, while reducing their risk of premature death and ill-health.
  • Cycling is far more likely to benefit an individual’s health than damage it; and the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling becomes – the ‘safety in numbers’ effect.
  • Cycling fits into daily routines better than many other forms of exercise, because it doubles up as transport to work, school or the shops etc. It’s easier than finding extra time to visit the gym and far less costly.
  • Lack of exercise can make people ill. It can lead to obesity, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, cancers, type 2 diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.
  • Obesity in particular is a growing, costly burden to the health service. Without action, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children will be obese by 2050 in the UK. 
  • CHD is the UK’s biggest killer – well over 90,000 people die of it each year with over 33% of these attributable to lack of physical activity.
  • Unlike driving, cycling causes negligible harm to others, either through road injuries or pollution, so it’s a healthy option not just for cyclists, but for everyone else too.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Policy makers should recognise cycling as a healthy and convenient means of transport and recreation that could be incorporated into the ordinary day-to-day activity of millions of adults and children and so improve health and quality of life.
  • There is good evidence that cycling’s health benefits far outweigh the risks involved and that the more people who cycle, the safer it becomes – the ‘safety in numbers’ effect.
  • Cycling is also a benign mode of transport, causing negligible harm to others. Hence a switch from motorised travel to cycling would improve road safety for all by reducing road danger.
  • Public health and transport/planning policies, strategies and guidance, locally and nationally, should be mutually supportive in promoting and facilitating cycling as active travel; and they should clearly steer professionals towards cross-sector working. This will help tackle the serious, costly and growing crisis of physical inactivity and the health problems associated with it (e.g. obesity, heart disease etc).
  • Directors of Public Health (England) should take advantage of their return to local authorities to engage transport, town and spatial planning and other council departments (e.g. leisure and tourism) more closely in promoting cycling as active travel and recreation.
  • The NHS and its providers should actively promote cycling both to their own employees, to the people in their care, and to the general public; and they should invest in measures to support it (e.g. patient referral schemes, cycling facilities at sites as part of Travel Plans etc).
  • Transport and planning decisions should undergo a ‘health check’ to maximise the potential for positive impacts on active travel and minimise negative impacts. Tackling hostile road conditions is a priority because they put existing cyclists at risk and deter many others including children and young people.
  • Placing the onus solely on cyclists to protect themselves from injury does not tackle the risks they face at source. Health professionals should therefore remain cautious about cycle safety campaigns that focus on personal protective equipment.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
September 2012
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