Liverpool Cycle Forum Special Edition

This evening there was a special convening of the Liverpool Cycle Forum as Maria Eagle Shadow Minister for Transport had agreed to attend. I didn’t take many notes so I’ll wait for the minutes to be released rather than try and half-remember things.

In the meantime here is

“Everything I wanted to say at the Liverpool Cycle Forum but Didn’t get the Chance”

Chair Tim Beaumont was fair to everyone but there were a few things I wanted to say but had to leave out so that everyone had a chance. There seemed to be an abundance of people in attendance related to Bike Right or Bikeability and quite naturally to them the solution to the problem of cycle safety was more training. I had the impression that I and two other people in attendance fundamentally disagreed with this so I’ll explain why…

It’s not that cycle training is a bad thing per se, it’s just that

If our dream of making Britain a safe place to cycle relies on cyclists never making a mistake and drivers obeying the rules of the road, we’re F*&%&^.

Training, whether for cyclists or drivers is a soft measure, it relies on people to abide by their training and a consistent and swift disciplinary process when they fail, and it will always have a certain failure rate because, well, we’re human. Look at this diagram, this is the hierarchy of control used by pretty much all Health and Safety professionals

Behavioural controls come second to last in their effectiveness to prevent injury, second only to PPE, yes, that’s helmets and hi-viz. The best ways of preventing injury are to

  • Eliminate the hazard, get as many motor vehicles off the roads as possible by encouraging a modal shift to trains, bikes and walking.
  • Substitute the hazard for something less dangerous, a bus is probably less hazardous than 80 cars.
  • Engineer away the hazard, design safer roads

Campaigns that appeal to motorists sense of social responsibility to ‘Look out!’ or ‘Slow down!’ are simply doomed to failure, their impact will be insignificant compared to the impact of changes made  further up the hierarchy, Think Bike! and even 20’s Plenty will never make the streets a safe place to exist. The good thing is one of the alternatives is probably no more expensive than a 20mph zone. You want to make a residential street safe? Instead of buying four expensive ’20’ signs and putting two at each end of a street, not enforcing it and hoping drivers will take notice, buy two concrete bollards and stick them in the ground at one end of the street, immediately preventing all rat running and making it pointless for anyone other than a resident of said street to enter it. Design a system where a residential street accesses one distributor street, which in turn accesses only one main road.

There was talk about localism at the meeting, not having central government dictate how funds are spent, I have no idea what hoops need to be gone through to allow a street to be closed at one end but I imagine it is difficult and expensive. So how about making it simple for residents to close their street at one end? If several streets in a small area want to do it it should be properly coordinated of course.

In the meeting we momentarily touched on the paradox that until you get lots of people cycling, there’s not the political momentum to increase spending on creating safe cycling infrastructure that will encourage lots of people to cycle. I think the above proposal is a good way to engage people in the safety of their neighbourhoods, it will make the streets safer than 20 zones can, which will encourage more people to cycle, and they will already be engaged in the process, thus providing political momentum. Telling people what they ought to do, and then telling them to just get on with it no matter how hazardous the environment, is not a recipe for increasing cycling. This is a problem where our leaders need to lead, not to wait for the political momentum, but to create one.


3 thoughts on “Liverpool Cycle Forum Special Edition

  1. Whilst I agree that in an ideal world a massive increase in hard measures and improvements to cycle provision would be the best approach, in the short term training people to be safer on the roads we have, is one way to increase cycle use and help to reduce car use.

    Your top way to prevent injuries:
    “Eliminate the hazard, get as many motor vehicles off the roads as possible by encouraging a modal shift to trains, bikes and walking” – One way to encourage modal shift to bikes is to overcome the barriers that people say stop them from cycling. Providing training increases individual’s confidence and makes them more likely to cycle on the road.

    There is no way that in the near future we will be able to create ‘safe’ cycle route on every road in the country, by spending some of the funding available on cycle training it helps to equip people with the skills needed to cycle on any journey that they may need to make, by giving them the ability to make decisions and adapt to the environment.

    Above you say ‘abundance of people in attendance related to Bike Right or Bikeability and quite naturally to them the solution to the problem of cycle safety was more training’ as if this is a negative, there were three BikeRight! staff present at the meeting and as it happens, none of the individuals there last week work at all with Bikeability. Surely some effort to improve cycle safety is better than none, even if it is not your preferred measure.

    So just a final point, CYCLING IS FUN!!! lots of people cycle lots of miles and enjoy it, my commute is a 52 mile round trip and I love it. Reading your blog is interesting but it is also depressing, I know cycling can be dangerous (but most things can be) and we need to something to improve it but making a log reporting all the negatives of cycling, the deaths, the lack of provision and your interactions with rubbish drivers, is not the best way to promote cycling and encourage people out of their cars. Stop being a martyr to the cause, shout from the rooftops, “I cycle every day and its great”, maybe then people will give it a try!

    • “training people to be safer on the roads we have, is one way to increase cycle use and help to reduce car use”

      Well that’s been the mantra for 30 years now and cycling still remains a minority pursuit. Training has failed spectacularly as a way to induce mass cycling.

      Do you have any statistics to prove that more training equals more cyclists? All the statistics point to more high-quality infrastructure equals more (and safer) cyclists. Anything else is a red herring.

    • Hi Alice, I take the stance that if hard measures are the best way to improve safety then that is where the greater proportion of time and money should be spent. Of course training is useful at an individual level, but when the opportunity arises to talk with councillors/MPs/ministers I would never consider bringing it up as I feel it provides them with a cheap alternative to proper infrastructure that also has the benefit of not really inconveniencing motorists. Training and soft measures will always be attractive to politicians and I feel we must make it quite clear that we will not accept them as a substitute to proper infrastructure.

      PS, the blog serves a purpose, one on one with non-cyclists I never discuss the negatives of cycling I’ve inspired a few people at work to give it a go and the good lady too

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