Monday, 25 September 2017

Why do they target the 0.12% of road deaths ?

Wrote the following letter to my MP, in response to the plan to legislate against cyclists as the result of a single road death.

Transport deaths - perspective on proposed cycling legislation

Please can you bring the following to the attention of the minister;
Whilst shocked at the death of Kim Briggs , crossing the road on her phone, and  run down by Charlie Alliston, a cyclist riding a track bike on the road, I am saddened at the response of the media and the government in jumping to legislate for this very rare event (2 of the  1,730 deaths in 2015). There are a number of significant recent developments in distractions for all road users, and it seems, a heavy bias in failing to prosecute motorists who cause daily death on our roads.
The public health benefits of walking and cycling, both as active exercise for the participant, and to reduce congestion and pollution needs far more encouragement and investment, not constraining. (According to a Kings College study, there are 32,500 deaths every year from pollution related disease in the UK.

Legislation in Western Australia (on mandatory helmets) significantly reduced cycling rates. To take an extremely rare occurance (it seems around 2 deaths a year are cycle/pedestrian collisions) and create laws in a knee-jerk way seems likely to result in poor legislation.

There are other significant changes to how highways are being used which seem to be relevant to this case, and to wider concerns. 
•             Use of mobile phones and headphones, especially by pedestrians which makes them far less aware of their surroundings
•             The advent of the electric car (much quieter than conventional cars)
•             Electric Bikes, which are heavier and often faster than many other cycles
•             The prospect of driverless cars, with no prospect to make eye contact and know intentions
•             Bigger HGVs with limited visibility, changes to higher visibility, low windowed cabs seems to be very slow to introduce
•             Less tolerance and more aggression from motorists
•             Parking across the pavement, cycleways, double yellow lines which is rarely policed.
•             The lack of consistent infrastructure for supporting safe and efficient cycling. Almost every road has two pavements, by contrast cycleways are rare, and often disappear at pinch points.
A balanced review should take account of all of these factors. I would not favour a jay-walking law, but as a slow cyclist, I often do get people stepping out onto the road without looking into my path, and I do think that there should be some balancing responsibilities.
At sea, there is an order of precedence, that motor gives way to sail (unless constrained by draught), and sail to rowing, but that for all vessels, they have an overriding responsibility to avoid collision.

There was another rather less publicised collision, where the cyclist died ;
Benjamin Pedley 26, cycling to church, died when a pedestrian Nathan Kellsall walked out infront of him in Earley near Reaading. Witnesses said that Kellsall had crossed without looking. and

This is on-top of many road injuries and deaths at the hands of motorists, many of whom walk free. Here are just a few that I’ve seen updates on in the last week;
A van driver jumping a red light who walked free despite consigning 15 year old schoolgirl Gemma Coates to a wheelchair.

Esme Weir, a 4 year old, scootering on the pavement with her pregnant mother in the Wirall. The driver had moments before waved them across the road. .

And a driver who killed a 4 year old boy on the pavement, blamed his diabetes, and shows no remorse.

Despite Olympic success and a renaissance, cycling in the UK, it often feels to be a danger sport to share the road. Some motorists take delight in cutting you up, overtaking at all costs to join a stationary queue, and generally failing to give adequate space or consideration to a fellow human.
West Midlands Police, who pioneered a ‘close pass’ education tool for motorists, have seen cycle KSIs down by 20% in a year
Examples of assault – either using the vehicle as a weapon, or a driver or passenger pushing cyclists off their bike are also too frequent.

Whilst it seems one of the suggestions is mandatory training for cyclists, much of the behavioral problems are displayed by motorists, mandatory cycle training as part of the driving test would probably save more lives.

Apparently a wide-ranging review of all road traffic offences and sentencing was announced by the government in May 2014. This evidence based approach seems to have become stuck. Acting only on cycling ignores the cause of more than 99% of road deaths to focus on just 0.12% of them.

Please could the government focus public resources and limited legislative time on the offences with the propensity to do the most harm and bad behaviour, not “a populist yearning to ignore inconvenient facts and rush to judgment” (quote attributed to Jesse Norman MP)