The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) have today launched their summer campaign: “Stay wider of the rider.” The campaign reminds drivers to give plenty of room to people cycling, when overtaking.
Enabling more of us to cycle starts by reducing the dangers on our streets
Cycling is growing in popularity. We know that in 2016, 730,000 journeys in London every day were cycled – up from 570,000 just five years previously in 2011. This has coincided with a fall in the risk of serious injury or death while cycling: 58 per cent since 2000. This shows that concerted efforts over successive mayoralties to reduce road danger and protect people cycling are working.
But for many of us, cycling still doesn’t look or feel safe. And until it does, we won’t realise the full benefit of cycling: cleaner air, a significantly healthier and happier population, reducing the burden on our 70 year old NHS, and more Londoners able to access the things they need, cheaply and easily.
While infrastructure is vital, it can’t come soon enough and it won’t reach everywhere. Segregated cycle ways, separated traffic signals, low-traffic or filtered neighbourhoods and 20 mile per hour zones do most of the work. But sharing streets and roads with cars, vans and buses will unfortunately be a reality for many of us for many years to come. That’s why we support this campaign to promote a bit of courtesy, care and compassion when behind the wheel.
We’re absolutely behind this campaign to make our roads safer for everyone
When any vehicle passes a rider too closely, it is intimidating and dangerous. Research conducted by academics at the University of Westminster found that a regular commuter could expect to experience a close pass every day or two. And with 40,000 commuters entering central London alone every morning, that’s a lot of unnecessary stress, fear and even harm caused by a moment’s carelessness. Close passes can put people off cycling more of their journeys or even cycling altogether.
Despite the fact that 79% of serious injuries and loss of life for people cycling occurs at junctions (the main infrastructure priority), close passes are ranked as the third leading conflict behind serious injuries to cyclists, according to Transport for London.
Reducing danger on our roads is absolutely essential to make cycling easier and safer. So Sustrans supports the LCC in their campaign to raise awareness of responsible driving. Particularly in the summer when the warm weather sees more Londoners try out cycling, many of whom doing so for the first time.
Like the LCC, we want to see much greater enforcement of safe passing distances. Until our streets are designed to make close passes a thing of the past – for which our political leaders have ultimate responsibility - we need more attentive, considerate and respectful driving.
What is a safe passing distance?
The Highway Code states clearly that, when driving, you should leave at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car. We consider this to be 1.5 metres.
Are the police doing anything about it?
Police forces are beginning to take action, pioneered by the West Midlands police force’s ‘Close Pass’ operation. Most see a plain-clothed police officer ride a bike equipped with a video camera. When a driver passes too close they are stopped by another officer and given advice. Prosecutions are only made for repeat offenders or when a pass is considered very close and dangerous. The force also looks at video evidence supplied by the public.
There are 22 police forces around the country believed to be doing similar initiatives to some extent, including London’s Metropolitan Police Force.
Last month, Cycling Minister, Jesse Norman endorsed the initiative and announced that the Department for Transport would provide training materials and support for police forces to run their own close-pass operations; a measure we called for in our response to the Department for Transport’s Cycle Safety Review. We now need the College of Policing to endorse it too, so that more forces start to take action.
Having the LCC and their sponsors raise awareness of this important issue over the summer is very welcome. Just remember when you’re driving to be patient and stay wider of the rider.