Guest post by MIKE EVANS: Should cycle training be compulsory?
Another cyclist was involved in a fatal accident on London’s roads today, the sixth person die in the capital in two weeks. His death will undoubtedly lead to more criticism of the safety of London’s cyclist as well as proposals laid out by Boris Johnson for London’s cycle superhighways. With Road Safety Week, an initiative by the charity Brake, taking place this week there will be much speculation on how to make Britain’s roads safer.
The majority of media speculation on the issue has focused on whether or not helmets should be compulsory for cyclists and while there are strong arguments on both sides regarding this, it doesn’t address the root of the problem. Similarly, often in cases such as this there are calls for large-scale changes to infrastructure to make UK cities more cycle friendly. However, the sheer cost and time needed to implement these changes mean that it’s just not feasible at the current time. So what’s the solution?
In my opinion, the first stage to addressing the problem would be to invest in compulsory cycle training for all those that were able. This would be a necessity before you were able to take your driving test and, just as those who want drive an HGV need to pass a regular driving test first, those who want to pass their driving test would have to complete a compulsory cycling test.
Undoubtedly, this would still be a significant investment but it would be a great deal less than the cost of investment in infrastructure. Current government proposals amount to around £77 million for cycling investment across the UK and this won’t even begin to address the root of the problem – that many people have no idea what it’s like to be a vulnerable road user.
In a survey conducted by the cycle training group Bikeability, 90 per cent of respondents chose “improved road awareness” as the main benefit from cycle training. Many drivers have never had experience cycling in traffic and so cannot possibly understand what it’s like. At the same time, there are many cyclists – particularly in London where cycling is a more common form of commute – that don’t have a proper understanding of the highway code and how to cycle on busy roads. This is not to say that the tragedies of those that have died in London this month is down to poor cycle training, far from it.
It is about doing everything we can to ensure that all road users have a good awareness of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes. There would also be the extra benefit of allowing people the opportunity to see that cycling is not dangerous and is in fact a very enjoyable form of commuting. This would lead to more people cycling, meaning less traffic on the roads, which is better for the environment as well as saving people money. Evidence from the UK cycle charity the CTC suggests that more cyclists on the road mean fewer accidents, which also supports the original idea of reducing road traffic accidents.
The number of people commuting by bike has been shown to be increasing, which is undoubtedly a good thing, but with more people cycling we want to ensure that those who commute by bike are safe in doing so. Compulsory cycle training offers a viable solution to this and is something the Government should seriously consider following these tragedies.
Mike Evans is a cycling enthusiast and freelance writer. This article is a series of four posts he has written in relation to Road Safety Week, an initiative by the charity Brake, which aims to promote safer roads in the UK. With much attention being given to safer driving at this time, it’s an important time to also talk about cycling and cycle safety.