Loughborough & District
Cycle Users' Campaign

Pedal Power
Issue 100
September 2012


Cycle Helmets

from campaign member Michael Forrest

While simple statistics appear to be beyond the ken of those who support compulsory helmets for cyclists, some non scientific, non statistical views may provide a pointer.

Some years ago I was a regular visitor to a Regional Neurosurgical Unit at a major teaching hospital. This was partly personal, as my wife was a patient (not as a wounded cyclist), partly professional, as my department had contracted to design and make some equipment. The two matters were not connected.

While I had no access to the records of other patients, in a busy Regional Ward, there were no cyclists with head injuries, with the majority suffering natural disasters. A significant proportion were head injuries from motoring accidents, either as occupants or victims of car mishaps (none hit by cyclists). There was also a high proportion of domestic mishaps, largely to the elderly from falls.

Looking at this chance selection, one might conclude that efforts to enforce wearing of helmets might be more usefully focussed on motor car occupants, pedestrians and people at home, especially the elderly. But where does rationality come into this effort to get the hated cyclist out of the way of the Clarkson fuelled motoring lobby? While the Minister tells me Clarkson's programmes are just a bit of fun, and no-one takes them seriously, we all know there is an idiot fringe who follow his lead devotedly, and behave accordingly.

On a personal level, I have been cycling the world over for almost 75 years (started at five, pedalling furiously behind two cycling parents, from Leicester to near Derby and back, on the same day) and have never been knocked off (although falling off several times), all without injury apart from cuts and bruises.

Yet in recent years, I have twice been knocked off, and each time on a cyclepath. The first time, a driver with eyes right only for a gap in the A6 traffic, failed to notice a cyclist from the left, and accelerated violently out of a private drive, hitting me broadside. Ancient 'Gundle' damaged, self dazed and bruised, flustered driver pausing only to check if I was still alive, disappeared in a cloud of tyre smoke, leaving behind only a satisfyingly large heap of smashed plastic (1930's Gundles are made from solid bars, not tubes, I suspect). Police were unsympathetic as I was not hospitalised, telling me that I should have concentrated on getting the number rather than saving my life, and what is more, I should have given way and evaded the impact, as I was more manouverable and slower. I have not yet worked out a technique for taking violent sideways avoiding action. Ideas please.

Coincidentally, at almost the same spot some time later I was forced into the hedge by a driver taking to the cyclepath to answer a mobile phone (it is illegal to do so on the road!). She irritably waved me away as I extricated myself from the hawthorn and approached her to protest, and I had not collected my wits enough to take her number, for which the police again reproached me, with again the observation that as the slower and more manouverable vehicle, I should have evaded.

While both these drivers happened to be women, I must say that in general, women are much more considerate and careful where cyclists are encountered, while police do not impress, a view not helped by my protest about a police car firmly placed ahead of the advance stop line at a town traffic light, telling me that these ASLs had no legal status and were “just a courtesy”.

East Midlands Cycle Forum

This event will take place on 22nd September 2012 at the Stonegravels Parish Centre, 91 Sheffield Road, Chesterfield S41 7JH. The centre is about one mile from Chesterfield railway station.

The Centre will be open for registration and coffee from 10.15. The sessions will commence at 11.00 and include subjects such as working in cooperation with your local authority. They will be followed by a presentation from Sustrans on the bid for a cycling connection to Chesterfield railway station, and a cycle ride looking at the provision (or lack thereof) for cycling in Chesterfield. The ride will finish at the railway station at 16.00.

Lunch will be provided free of charge, funded by Chesterfield Cycle Campaign. A donation box will be available. If you would like to attend and require lunch, please let Alastair Meikle know either by email secretary@chesterfieldcc.org.uk or post - Chesterfield Cycle Campaign, 4 Inkerman Cottages, Ashgate, Chesterfield S40 4BP phone - 01246 520820.

Misleading reporting on Casualty Stats and 20mph Limits

Based on comments from the 20's Plenty Campaign

Those who want to keep motor vehicle speeds high in town centres and where people live have jumped on the Department for Transport statistics showing an increase of 24% in total casualties on 20mph roads between 2010 and 2011. Over the same period, total casualties on 30mph roads reduced by 1%.

Some sections of the media have initially concluded that this indicates that 20mph limits are a cause for concern. But what they have not considered is that between 2010 and 2011 there was a large increase in the number of roads that have had their speed limit changed from 30mph to 20mph. Local authorities around the country have been adopting 20mph as the default limit for urban roads and in some areas 70% of all roads now have a 20mph limit. Hence without reference to the total number of miles of 20mph roads in 2010 and 2011, no conclusion can be drawn from these particular statistics.

What we do know is that after extensive research and often large scale pilots, many of our most iconic cities have already concluded that 30mph is no longer an acceptable speed limit for most of their urban streets. These include Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, York, Lancaster, Liverpool, Brighton, as well as complete counties such as Lancashire and Bath & NE Somerset. They are doing so because there is ample evidence that 20mph limits create a better road environment for all users, especially pedestrians and cyclists. Those seeking justification for high vehicle speeds on roads are failing to make a convincing case against the abundance of evidence in support of lower speed limits.

It is because such counties as Lancashire have changed the speed limit on most of their residential roads in the last 3 years that there will inevitably be an increase in casualties on 20mph roads as the total road length increases. Other research in London came to the conclusion that "20 mph zones are effective measures for reducing road injuries and deaths", with a 42% reduction in road casualties, after adjustment for underlying time trends.

Further information can be found at http://4c3.de/oVy .

Cycling routes on Google

Cycle routes are now on UK Google Maps, following a collaboration between Sustrans and Google. You can find an example at http://4c3.de/oV1 . To see suggested cycle routes, simply enter your start and finish destinations, click on the little bicycle icon, and away you go.

Google are testing this service and want to find out from users which roads are best to ride on, so please report any mapping issues via their Bicycling Directions reporting form.

More and Safer Cycling

This is the theme for the CTC/Cyclenation/Bristol Cycling Campaign Autumn Conference to be held on 13th October 2012 at Armada House, Telephone Av., Bristol BS1 4BQ , a city centre venue so used to hosting cycle conferences that they have their own bike parking rails.

Philip Darnton will chair and the new Chief Executive of the CTC Gordon Seabright will report on what he thinks the CTC can do to build on the current Times campaign and its national and local effects on cycle safety.

During the day there will be a chance to discuss and share best practice on a number of themes, including using the media, successful campaigning, street interventions, shared space and building political will. Cambridge Cycle Campaign will launch Cyclescape, and all the other campaign groups are being encouraged to bring along posters and information to display around the walls. You can book a place at http://4c3.de/oVA .

The cost is £22 per person booked on-line (£23 by post).

Bradley Wiggins Gaffe

Comments by Simon Geller, Secretary, Cyclenation.

Bradley Wiggins sparked a great deal of controversy when he called for helmet wearing to be made compulsory and the use of personal stereos etc. while cycling to be banned. Euphoria at Bradley’s success had quickly turned to grief when we learned that yet another London cyclist had been killed under the wheels of a left-turning vehicle and that this time it was an Olympic bus at the junction near the Olympic park that LCC had already warned was dangerous. It appears that Bradley, possibly having quaffed a glass or two of celebratory champagne, was caught off guard when he made some off-the-cuff remarks. These were seized on by the newshounds, who could sense some sensational headlines for the next day.

The cycle campaigning world moved swiftly into damage limitation mode. We quickly put out a blog post http://cyclenation.blogspot.co.uk/ and others put out press releases - which we still aren’t geared up to do and help with that would be appreciated. Others such as Chris Boardman made some sensible remarks in the media.

In the meantime, Cyclenation Board members moved swiftly behind the scenes. We contacted British Cycling officials who agreed that Bradley’s remarks had been unhelpful. Our Team GB cycling heroes are to be given some help on what to say in situations like this - we don’t want to stunt free speech, we just want our high-profile athletes to be in possession of the facts. A seminar for Elite cyclists on cycling safety was mooted and this may come off - watch this space. It also became apparent that the victim of the collision had his lower half crushed by the bus, so whether or not he was wearing a helmet wouldn’t have made any difference.

So all in all, while the day started as a PR disaster, by the end of the day we felt that we were on top of the debate.

Christian Wolmar wrote a piece that was very well expressed, making the point that it’s about safer streets for cycling, not safer cyclists for the streets, even though as he says, the casualty rates (per mile and trip) for cyclists are low . Local Transport Today pointed out that the Government’s response to the debate was somewhat confused. “There is a strong case for making them compulsory,” Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV News, although he did also acknowledge that the subject was “a difficult issue”. The official response from the DfT, however, was that: “We believe that this should remain a matter of individual choice rather than imposing additional rules that would be difficult to enforce.”

We stand firm on our evidence-based position that mandatory helmet laws deter people from cycling and do not make existing cyclists any safer. We stand for informed choice, not mandatory helmet wearing.

From the Chair: To Mark 21 Years

It has been a busy summer for me, so I was not surprised to be caught unawares, spotting John at work on September's Pedal Power. A few weeks earlier, for obvious reasons, I had been thinking that perhaps it was my responsibility to offer a piece about cycle helmets, so I was delighted to discover that, thanks to copy he had already received, I was absolved!

Instead, I would like to use my small space to raise once again the idea of organising an event to mark the twenty-first anniversary of the founding of the Loughborough and District Cycle Users' Campaign in 2013. I say mark, not celebrate, for I believe we will only truly have cause to celebrate when we can wind up our little organisation, having judged its existence no longer necessary. I certainly have a few ideas as to what we can do, but I am not going to set them out here, because I want to hear yours, and I do not want to prejudice anybody's train of thought! Please think bold, think big, think blue sky, and contact me using the details on the back page. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ariadne Tampion

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