October 27, 2017

Are cyclists a danger to people? The Government certainly seems to think so

Blue sign showing cyclists and pedestrians walkway

I understand why this (recent) media attitude has been prevalent; much of it was prompted by the tragic death of Kim Briggs. We all know now that the injuries she suffered were caused when the bicycle being ridden by Charlie Alliston collided with her.

Let me be clear where I stand on this case: Mr Alliston’s bicycle was not fitted with a front brake and it should have been - to be road legal. There is no question that this was a tragedy that could easily have been avoided (much like the vast majority of fatalities on our roads). Mr Alliston has been jailed for 18 months. But does this one tragedy mean that all cyclists are a danger to pedestrians? I think not.

Cyclists are not the real problem

Statistics show us that, on average, 0 – 3 pedestrians are killed by cyclists each year. By comparison, motor vehicles account for around 400 pedestrian deaths, as well as a further 100 deaths of people riding bicycles, on our roads each year.

Can you imagine if each pedestrian or cyclist killed in road accidents received the same media coverage as the collision between Mr Alliston and Mrs Briggs? Peter Walker of The Guardian reported that in the 2 weeks following the start of Mr Alliston’s Trial, motor vehicles had killed 8 pedestrians and 2 cyclists. Did those motorists receive anywhere near the column inches that Mr Alliston received?

On the one hand, a collision between a cyclist and pedestrian is particularly newsworthy because it is such an unusual and rare occurrence. Perhaps that is the justification for the amount of recent media coverage? However, it is extremely important to keep in mind that these collisions don’t happen very often.

On the other hand, the statistics are clear: reporting that cyclists are a menace on our roads and a threat to pedestrians is plainly wrong. Meanwhile, vulnerable road users continue to be killed in their hundreds by motor vehicles.

I think that is why so many cyclists have been so amazed by the Government’s decision to look at whether the offence of dangerous driving should be extended to cyclists. I agree that a review of all road laws should be undertaken, but instead with an emphasis on reducing the number of deaths caused by motorists.

What should the Government be doing?

The whole situation is a sad reflection of the state of our roads. Injuries and deaths caused by motor vehicles are rarely reported so widely in the news because they seem to be  accepted as an unavoidable consequence of motoring. Perhaps such accidents are therefore less newsworthy?

It seems obvious that a Government review and reconsideration of the risks cyclists pose to other road users is misdirected. It should be aimed at the threat motor vehicles post to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.

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