Philip Pank Transport Correspondent
Published at 12:01AM, September 25 2012
Source: The Times
Potential cyclists are too scared to ride on the roads, holding back the uptake of cycling in Britain, the Transport Minister admitted in an interview with The Times.
Norman Baker, the minister responsible for cycling, added that bike riding had traditionally been the “Cinderella” part of transport policy, overlooked in favour of other modes of transport.
Asked about the low level of cycling in Britain, Mr Baker said: “You are right that more people should cycle or could cycle because 43 per cent of people have a bike and 2 per cent of journeys are by bike, so people have got bikes but don’t use them.
“There are a number of complicated reasons for that. Partly it is about people not feeling safe on the roads out there where they want to cycle.”
The other two factors that put people off were an unwillingness to do basic bike maintenance and poor winter weather, he said.
“I think the answer is a delicate balance to try to make sure that we do address genuine safety issues … and at the same time as identifying serious safety problems not putting people off but encouraging them to be out there cycling and to recognise that statistically it is quite safe to be out on the road cycling,” Mr Baker said.
“I don’t think it is a dangerous activity, particularly if they have good training.”
He welcomed a cross-party inquiry looking into why more people do not cycle that is being funded by a £10,000 donation from News International, parent company of The Times.
“I will certainly co-operate and make information available from the department,” he said at a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton.
Martin Gibbs, policy and legal affairs director at British Cycling, said: “The Government needs to move beyond acknowledging concerns about safety. It needs to grip the issues that are causing those concerns and give us the policies to solve them.
“We are looking to the minister for some leadership on cycling and bring it into the heart of transport policy.”
The Department for Transport has published today a review of design solutions to protect cyclists at road junctions. It found that the four leading methods of protecting cyclists were creating advanced stop lines for cyclists at traffic lights; painting coloured cycle lanes across road junctions; straightening staggered road crossings; and changing traffic priority at crossings to give right of way to cyclists crossing roads on cycle lanes.
The study concluded that it would be cost-effective to launch trials of coloured cycle lanes through junctions. It found that allowing cyclists to turn left at red lights was among the worst possible solutions.
The Cities Fit for Cycling campaign has called for the 500 most dangerous junctions in Britain to be redesigned to protect cyclists. Sixty-three per cent of cyclists killed or seriously injured in Britain are hit at junctions.
The Times is taking its campaign to the Liberal Democrat party convention tomorrow with a fringe meeting exploring how cyclists and lorries can co-exist more safely.
Mary Bowers, a Times reporter who was hit by a lorry on her ride to work, is still not fully conscious almost 11 months after the collision.