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Success! The Government are now measuring perceptions of safety

Chris Peck's picture
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Instead of measuring numbers of injuries and deaths to cyclists, CTC believes Government should measure risk to cyclists and the perception of safety. The Department for Transport has now agreed to measure against both indicators. This will give a clearer picture about changes to cycle safety.
Bikes outside parliament
Bikes outside parliament

Why is measuring risk rather than numbers of casualties important? Without this subtle change government and local authorities have conflicting incentives: they want to increase cycle use whilst simultaneously reducing overall numbers of casualties.

Why is measuring risk rather than numbers of casualties important? Without this subtle change government and local authorities have conflicting incentives: they want to increase cycle use whilst simultaneously reducing overall numbers of casualties.

Since cycling is a relatively risky mode when compared with driving, a shift to cycling may mean more injuries - even though the overall public health impact (ie, more physically active and healthy people) will far outweigh the risk of injury. Of course, once you shift enough people from cars to bikes the risk changes because there will be fewer car drivers out there putting cyclists at risk.

The move to measuring risk rather than absolute numbers is one of the main calls in CTC's 'Safety in Numbers' campaign. The previous Government's Road Safety Strategy agreed with this suggestion and CTC was pleased to see that they were retained in the 'Strategic Framework for Road Safety' that finally emerged from the coalition Government in 2011.

In March 2012 the attitudes to transport section of the major rolling 'British Social Attitudes' report was published, revealing for the first time the attitudes of people to cycling on roads (page 18):

Attitudes to transport - page 18

This shows that 69% of non cyclists think that it is too dangerous to cycle on roads and only 20% are very or fairly confident about cycling on roads. These figures are a strong message to Government that much more needs to be done to improve road conditions and driver behaviour.

It also presents an interesting conundrum: are cyclists simply hardened to the poor conditions or do non-cyclists have an unrealistic sense of the risks?

At a local level CTC is still in discussions with the Department for Transport to explore how a similar indicator can be established. Data on cycle use is of highly variable quality when gathered locally, so an indicator of perception of safety when cycling is a more realistic suggestion.

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  • Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC): A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no.25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1147607 and in Scotland No SC042541

 

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