Loughborough & District
Cycle Users' Campaign

Pedal Power
Issue 105
July 2013


Sustrans’ Connect2 National Lottery Awards 2013

Sustrans’ Connect2 is a finalist in the annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects. If you would like to support Sustrans, voting has now started and everyone has one vote (there is no minimum age) until midnight on Wednesday 24th July 2013. You can vote online at www.sustrans.org.uk/vote, or by phone on 0844 836 9689.

Charnwood Local Plan Core Strategy

The Core Strategy can be viewed at: http://localplan.charnwood.gov.uk and comments will be accepted until Monday 22nd July 2013 at 5pm. Areas which appear to be weak are in requiring that:

  • all new developments should be permeable to pedestrians and cyclists i.e. estates may only provide one entrance by car, but must make provision to allow access on foot and cycle around the periphery;
  • new developments should provide every building occupant with secure cycle parking closer to the main entrance than the nearest point for car parking.

Cross Hill Lane

From Tim Birkinshaw

Having created a much improved route by upgrading Cross Hill Lane, the County Council have negated it by poor and inappropriate resurfacing of the last stretch (the bit starting from Parklands Drive); it has been tarred and chipped to the usual (poor) standard – a large excess of chips making a very loose surface and hiding the holes. Ironically they swept the bit they resurfaced – and broke up part of it so there are more hollows than there were to start with.

I thought the point of the surface dressing/tar and chipping was that the traffic would bed the chips in. There is no traffic on this stretch.

The Case for a Compulsory Helmet Law?

Based on a CTC blog by Roger Geffen

An editorial in a recent British Medical Journal questions the BMA’s support for laws that would ban people from cycling without helmets.

It points to a new study showing that Canada’s helmet laws have made no detectable difference to cyclists’ safety. This is significant, as the BMA's original decision to support helmet laws was based on a study which appeared to show that Ontario's helmet law had not reduced cycle use.

However it subsequently emerged that this law was not enforced, hence it had made no difference to helmet use either. In short, an unenforced helmet law does nothing whatsoever. It therefore remains the case that enforced helmet laws significantly reduce cycle use, with all its health and other benefits.

Meanwhile, the USA’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently dropped the widely-parroted claim that helmets could prevent 85% of head injuries, following a successful challenge by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. WABA pointed to more recent research indicating that the effectiveness of helmets is far lower than the Seattle study had suggested.

Chris Peck (CTC) gave a presentation at the Velo-City cycling conference in which he talked about true and false comparisons between cycle safety and other forms of transport, and the reasons why it’s not worth promoting helmets to try and avert the relatively low risks of cycling, given the much greater harm this would almost inevitably do to public health.

The BMJ's editorial identifies two very distinct questions in the helmet debate:

  • At an individual level, “What is the effect of wearing a helmet?”
  • At a societal level, “What is the effect of a public health policy that requires or promotes helmets?”

With regards to the first question, the idea that there are different types of cycling or cyclist is often overlooked in helmet research. Whether or not it is worth wearing a helmet may depend on what type of cyclist you are, or what type of cycling you do. A recent Dutch report brings this out. It shows that over 13% of cyclists hospitalised in the Netherlands hospitals were wearing helmets, even though less than 1% of Dutch cyclists wear helmets. Does this prove that helmets are actually really harmful? Of course not. The explanation is that almost all of the helmet-wearers were riding racing bikes or mountain-bikes, whereas most Dutch cyclists ride sit-up-and-beg utility bikes. In other words, the difference isn't due to the helmet itself, but the type of cycling being done by those who chose to wear helmets (i.e. mountain-biking and racing).

The next question is should governments and other public bodies promote or require helmet use in order to reduce deaths and injuries?

On this matter an Australian statistician named Piet de Jong has demonstrated that it would take only a very small reduction in cycle use for helmet laws or promotional campaigns to cause more premature death (due to obesity, heart disease etc.) than could possibly be prevented by cycle helmets. As de Jong says:

"Even with very optimistic assumptions as to the efficacy of helmets, relatively minor reductions in cycling on account of a helmet law are sufficient to cancel out, in population average terms, all head injury health benefits.”

In short, whilst every cyclists' death is obviously tragic, the total numbers are mercifully low enough that it's not worth trying to prevent them by telling people to wear helmets - because the resulting loss of life due to people NOT cycling would almost certainly far outweigh any possible reductions in fatal cycling injuries, however effective helmets might be.

As former Transport Minister Steven Norris said years ago:.

"The idea you have to dress up like a bloody spaceman to ride a bike is just completely potty"

Meanwhile London Mayor Boris Johnson is now seeking to "delycrafy" cycling in the capital.

It really is time for the BMA to get the message that the best way to maximise cycling's health benefits is to promote it as a safe, normal, stylish and enjoyable activity which anyone can do in whatever clothes they feel like wearing.

Promoting Cycling

Many campaigners put great emphasis on building separate cycle facilities as the best way of moving to a society that takes much more advantage of cycling. However the experience of Stevenage, which has purpose-built cycling facilities planned by utility cyclist Eric Claxton in 1955 and built at the same time as the road network, indicates that more than this is required.

Thirty miles north of London and the first of England’s post-war New Towns, Stevenage was widely proclaimed in the 1970s as a shining example of how provision of high-quality, joined-up cycle infrastructure would encourage many to cycle, not just keen cyclists. Stevenage was compact and Claxton assumed the provision of 12ft wide cycle paths and 7ft wide footways – separated by grass strips as a minimum, and sometimes barriers, too – would encourage residents to cycle and walk everywhere. He had witnessed high usage of cycle tracks in the Netherlands and believed the same could be achieved in the UK. Instead – to Claxton’s puzzlement, and eventual horror – residents of Stevenage chose to drive, not cycle, even for journeys of two miles or less.

Stevenage Borough Council’s Cycle Strategy states:

“Stevenage has a fast, high-capacity road system, which makes it easy to make journeys by car. Residents have largely been insulated from the effects of traffic growth and congestion and generally there is little incentive for people to use modes other than the private car…Stevenage, with its extensive cycleway network, has largely the same level of cycling as other Hertfordshire towns, where facilities for cyclists are less developed. This seems to suggest that the propensity to cycle depends on factors other than the existence of purpose built facilities.”

Much more information on the situation in Stevenage can be found at the ROADS WERE NOT BUILT FOR CARS website and it is interesting to read of the comparison with a similar town in Holland which has very high cycling levels:

“Houten was designed in such a way that it was more convenient to walk and cycle than to drive. In Stevenage, cyclists were provided with safe, protected cycle paths but, critically, motorists were not constrained in any way. In fact, the first New Town was designed to be highly convenient for motorists: cyclists were removed from roads so cars didn’t have to meet slower vehicles; roundabouts kept swift, motorised traffic flowing freely; and traffic lights were kept to a minimum (there was just one set of traffic lights in the whole town). In Houten, cars were provided with a ring road but cross-town access was designed to be always quickest by bicycle.”

“Road Tax”

One of the most common criticisms of cyclists from ardent motorists is that we don't pay “Road Tax”. Of course “Road Tax” was abolished in 1937 and some car drivers don't pay tax on their cars. If you ever need to make the situation clear to someone who believes we have no right to the road as we don't “pay Road Tax” you can point them to ipayroadtax.com which deals with just about every side of the argument.

To quote from the home page:

“Road tax doesn't exist. It's car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists - who are sometimes branded as 'tax dodgers' - would pay the same as 'tax-dodgers' such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED. Many of those who believe road tax exists, want cyclists off the roads or, at least registered, but bicycle licensing is an expensive folly.”

Cycle awareness module for driving instructors

Based on a CTC blog by Chris Peck

The AA and BSM are issuing a cycle awareness module to their driving instructors. The absence of cycle training for teenagers and the poor understanding of needs and rights of cyclists by some of the population has led to aggressive behaviour.

The driver awareness module would teach driving instructors about cyclists' needs, and also overturn some myths about cyclists' right to use the roads.

The AA and British School of Motoring (BSM) announcement is in large part thanks to the President of the AA Edmund King's personal backing of a more conciliatory culture of road use between cyclists and motorists.

Mark Peacock, head of BSM, said:

“Successfully teaching a learner to drive safely around cyclists means instilling a good attitude, as well as the necessary practical driving skills”

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