Road safety award for school transport campaign
Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan has been awarded a Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line Insurance for her campaign to improve school transport.
In 2011 Leicestershire County Council withdrew a school bus service, despite the head teacher, parents and pupils arguing that the route is unsafe to walk. As a result, Nicky started a campaign for better school transport nationwide. In January Nicky led a debate in Parliament on the issue and the Education Minister agreed that improvements to school transport policy were needed, promising to consider putting in place a robust appeals procedure so parents can challenge school transport policy at local level.
Nicky argues that it is time for a common sense approach to school transport, with authorities considering the needs of families. She has undertaken not to give up until the necessary improvements are made to safeguard children both at Humphrey Perkins and other schools around the country.
It is to be hoped that a “common sense approach” will not just look at providing a bus service, but more importantly will look at improving the safety of routes to schools. This should include controlling motor traffic and providing appropriate facilities. It should be normal for secondary school children to walk up to 2 miles or cycle up to 5 miles to get to school unescorted. This would help inculcate these habits for life and provide some good exercise.
Summer of Cycling
The Summer of Cycling is a national campaign running between March and October 2012 which aims to encourage more people to cycle. The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, CTC and The Bicycle Association, alongside the force of 22 other cycling organisations, are aiming to double cycling this summer.
It's about encouraging everyone with an interest in cycling to share the fun and introduce just one friend, neighbour, colleague or family member to cycling.
The Summer of Cycling brings together a whole host of organisations: charities, NGOs, manufacturers and retailers, as well as major UK cycling event organisers. It is very much a collaborative effort, with racing organisations being able to promote the Summer of Cycling just as easily as local cycle campaign groups such as ourselves.
You can find more detail on the website at www.summerofcycling.net .
Cycling, Health and Safety: Winning the Arguments
This conference, held in Birmingham on 21st April, was aimed at trying to ensure that campaigners had the facts available to them when advocating the encouragement of and investment in cycling.
We started the day with a talk from Professor Bruce Lynn (UCL) looking at the health benefits of cycling. He pointed out that evolution had resulted in bodies that need to be exercised but with a mind that favours resting and eating as much as we can. For a person in the Stone Age this would assist survival but in our technological age it results in obesity and reduced life expectancy. The evidence is that humans eat about the same amount today as they did in the past, but they don't burn it off through exercise.
Bruce showed some convincing studies demonstrating the beneficial effect of exercise, in particular cycling, for everyone, whether they are fat or thin. Whole population studies show that of the 25% of the population taking the least exercise up to the age of 59, about 1 in 4 will be dead by the age of 65, compared to less than 1 in 10 of the 25% taking the most.
Malcolm Wardlow then looked at the risks associated with cycling and expressed regret that the Times has been describing cycling as “shockingly dangerous”. It is not. The deaths each day from heart disease amount to twice the level of deaths per year while cycling. He produced some interesting statistics. The one that most struck was that the casualty rate for young male drivers is 20 times higher than that for middle aged males. In fact these young men are safer cycling than taking a car (and this is without taking into account the lives they often take with them when they crash). Three quarters of all road deaths are male.
He also highlighted the incorrect use of statistics and in particular two types of error:
- comparing risk per mile travelled rather than per hour of travel;
- assuming that all cycle accidents are road accidents.
Dr. Peter Ward then talked about the latest available evidence on the effectiveness of compulsory cycle helmets in reducing cyclist casualties. In summary there is none. It is now well established that enforced cycle helmet laws result in much less cycling and hence the loss of the public health benefit.
In Australia falls in cycle use averaged more than 30% and in Canada 28% to 40%. However, much higher levels of abandoning cycling have been recorded among teenagers, with 90% of teenage girls ceasing to cycle at one Sydney school. These falls in cycle use have not recovered quickly and there has been a long-term change in the profile of cycling. In Western Australia, concerted publicity, population growth and higher fuel prices returned cycling to its pre-law level in absolute numbers after ten years. Relative to population, cycling levels remain suppressed. Cycling casualties, moreover, are higher than ever before.
Dr. Robert Davis than gave a talk about challenging the traditional “road safety” assumptions. The first point being that there are no “unsafe” roads, simply unsafe drivers. He pointed out that the major problem was that governments concentrated on the aggregate level of Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) rather than the looking at who imposes the danger and whom they impose it on.
This was beautifully illustrated on the following Tuesday (24/4/12) when Mike Penning MP and Norman Baker MP smugly told the Transport Select Committee that the Dutch should take lessons from Britain on cycle safety, on the grounds that, per head of population, cycling is over four times safer in the UK! In reality, many more Dutch cycle as a proportion of the population and they also cycle much more than us. Therefore, in reality, the risk per mile travelled is very much lower. This highlights the problem that, due to concentrating on reducing RTAs, “better results” are obtained from measures that discourage walking and cycling.
You can find copies of the presentations and other source materials on these matters at http://goo.gl/gHPWz .
From the Chair
I went along to the AGM this year hoping to sell books and found myself elected to the Chair! Still, it was probably time I took on a more active role in the Campaign once again. I was a founder member in 1992 and have performed most of the officer roles at some time in the past, but for several years now my sum total involvement has been as chief proof reader to the Newsletter Editor.
There has been a substantial change in attitude towards cycling among the British population since 1992. Then, it was seen as a rather dangerous fringe activity; now it seems generally accepted as a Good Thing with health and environmental benefits. On the ground, facilities for riding and parking a bicycle are improving (although not always for other sorts of cycle). However, there are still plenty of pockets of obstructive old thinking in powerful places, and not yet enough 'bums on saddles' for common or garden politicians (as opposed to those with a pre-existing commitment to cycling) to see addressing cyclists' concerns as a vote winner. Locally, the problem of the Loughborough one way system still seems intractable. There is plenty more work for a cycle campaign to do.
The Loughborough and District Cycle Users' Campaign is now in its twentieth year, and will celebrate its 21st birthday in 2013. I would like us to mark this with an event to throw the spotlight on cycling in Loughborough. Maybe we could involve an Olympic medal winning cyclist. If you have any good ideas, please get in touch.
European Commission consultation on Road Safety
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on Road Safety. It is called ‘EU strategy to reduce injuries resulting from road traffic accidents” and runs until 22/06/2012. The Scope of the questionnaire is “…for the drafting of a strategy to reduce the severity of injuries caused by road traffic accidents. The questionnaire addresses general issues related to road safety and more specific issues on how to improve the data available on victims of accidents and their collection at EU level, and on how to target some specific groups of road users.”
The consultation can be reached at http://goo.gl/u4BnU .
Unfortunately it would appear that the Commission is simply focussing on "Road Safety" as illustrated by this sentence: In its ‘White Paper for the future of transport 4' the European Commission committed itself in pursuing a ‘zero-vision’ in road safety and for this intends ‘to develop a comprehensive strategy of action on road injuries and emergency services, including common definitions and standard classifications of injuries and fatalities, in view of adopting an injuries reduction target’. The fastest way to reduce road casualties would be to ban motorcycles together with cycling and walking in any area where the participants could come into conflict with motor vehicles. What we really need is a study on "Road Transport and Public Health" that would look at these issues in the round, including the health benefits of cycling and walking.
New Barrier on track across Garendon Park
A new barrier has been put in at the Coe Avenue entrance to the track across Garendon Park. Unfortunately this makes it very difficult for access by wheelchair, tricycle, trailerbike or tandem. We are working with the CTC, Sustrans and the County Council to have this barrier changed to allow easy access for these legitimate users.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign Resources
Cambridge Cycling Campaign have produced a couple of useful documents on bicycle lighting and cycle parking which can be found at: http://www.camcycle.org.uk/resources/lights/ and http://www.camcycle.org.uk/resources/cycleparking/guide/