London - a paradise for Cycling? Not quite, yet

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Cycling in London is unsafe, says Nina Wilde Cycling in London is unsafe, says Nina Wilde

In the current climate, the cyclist is still often regarded as a figure of hate who should have less right to use the road than motorists. 

The vitriol directed at cyclists by both motorists and pedestrians appears to be built on misconceptions of the cyclist as a freeloading, dangerous element to the roads who does not pay road tax.

Traffic police who are stationed all over London at the moment to protect cyclists are disproportionately targeting them, giving the false impression that the problem lies with cyclists.

The statistics, however, paint a very different picture. According to the Department for Transport, in incidents which involve the collision of a driver and a cyclist, 80 per cent of  these collisions are the fault of the driver.

In accidents between pedestrians and cyclists, 60 per cent of them are the fault of  pedestrian.
Why this demonising? Is it jealousy of the sense of freedom of cyclists? The speed in which they can get around the city? The fact they pay no road tax? Let me try to dispel some of the misunderstandings regarding cyclists.

1) Cyclists jump red lights. When a cyclist jumps a red light it is often in order to stay safe. According to a Transport for London report, more female than male cyclists get killed as they are more likely to obey the rules and wait at a red light, therefore they have a greater risk of of disappearing under the wheels of a lorry.

2) Cyclists on their mobile phones. In actuality this is very rarely seen. It is far more common to see motorists on their phone, in fact if you look in the car next to you chances are you will see a mobile on the lap of the driver. This is particularly dangerous as  they are in charge of a potentially lethal weapon.

3) Cyclists weave through traffic. If drivers left sufficient space between themselves and the kerb, cyclists wouldn't need to weave in and out of the traffic.

4) Cyclists should pay road tax. People don't seem to be aware that road tax as such doesn't actually exist. What car drivers pay, is for CO2 emissions. If we were to pay tax for using roads it could be argued that pedestrians should pay tax for using the pavement! I think we all pay enough council tax as it is.

London could be a fantastic city to cycle in. Cycling is a healthy, environmentally friendly way to travel, and on the whole the fastest way to get around in choked up London

According to CBS (The Central Bureau of Statistics) cycling up to a distance of 5km is faster than public transport and is as fast as a car. A survey by the Chartered Management Institute (2004) found that the most reliable way of getting to work is by bicycle.

Hopefully at some point in the future, when London's road are made safer, people who would otherwise automatically get in the car for a short  journey may reconsider and go by bike instead. Last but not least, it is also the cheapest way to travel, but it makes it rather costly if you have to pay with your life.

I'm an experienced cyclist from Holland and I've cycled most my life, but here in London I feel at my most vulnerable. 

Motorists don't seem to  know how to behave around cyclists, they seldom leave enough space when overtaking,  don't use their mirrors when turning  or when opening their car doors.

Sometimes their behaviour appears to be nothing less than bullying when they feel the need to punish cyclists by passing closely by, which at the least scares the hell out of you, and at the worst knocks you of your bicycle.

Motorists appear to have a complete lack of empathy towards cyclists. It seems that the crucial factor is to raise awareness of the motorist and change their attitude towards cyclists. 

We need to improve the mutual understanding and co-existence of motorists and cyclists. Both parties could be educated by showing clips of dangerous road situations on the London news bulletins.

London is looking to Holland for cycling ideas, which it could incorporate to improve its cycling infrastructure.

In Amsterdam and The Hague alone 70 per cent of the journeys are travelled by bicycle. Cyclists feel safe because motorists are more empathetic and considerate to you, probably because they themselves also cycle.

In the Netherlands there are 1.1 cycle deaths per 100km cycled, compared to 3.6 in the UK. Nobody in the Netherlands wears helmets or high visibility vests. Cycling is considered a normal part of daily life

Men in business suits cycle  to work in a relaxed manner, unlike here in London where cyclists are forced to keep up with the traffic.

It is for this reason that the introduction of segregated cycle lanes will mean the journey will become not just a safer, but also a more enjoyable experience .  

Traffic-calming measures could be introduced, exemptions from red traffic lights when turning left, right of way for cyclists and legal protection would all help improve the cyclist's lot in London. 

By creating more one-way streets, and the reducing of parking spaces, more space will be created for cycle paths. This is a revolutionary way of thinking. Not trying to keep what we have and tinker with the margins, but create something totally different.

Taking cycling seriously is not a luxury, people are being injured, maimed and killed.

With the ever growing population of London, cycling is the only sensible way forward. It is absurd to attempt to cram more cars on the already congested roads.

The most effective method of getting more people on their bike is to make cycling safer.

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