Roads will be risky for cyclists whatever we do

Recent cyclist deaths are tragic — yet in a city in which cycle use has shot up, fatalities are not disproportionate.

Simon Jenkins of the Guardian:  Recent cyclist deaths are tragic — yet in a city in which cycle use has shot up, fatalities are not disproportionate.

When one cyclist dies on the streets of London it is an accident. When two die it looks like carelessness. When six die in two weeks, “the Mayor must act”. Must he?

How any city uses its streets is peculiar to its culture. It is also surrounded with myth. At present London is being portrayed as a death trap for cyclists and its Government could not care less. The response is typically British. More public money should be spent, more rules introduced, more penalties imposed.

The truth is that barely 10 per cent of the 118 cycling deaths in the UK last year were in London. Most occur on rural roads. While cycle use has risen since the onset of recession, London fatalities are fairly constant, 10 in 2010, 16 in 2011, 14 in 2012 and 14 so far this year. This is hardly the carnage or massacre that the headline writers claim.

Fans of the new series of Borgen on Saturday night will have noticed the streets of Copenhagen seemingly awash in cyclists. Yet none of the riders was wearing a crash helmet. Nor do they in Amsterdam. In these capitals of urban cycling the most elementary safety equipment is not used. 

This appears to make little difference to the accident rate. Cyclist-friendly Copenhagen has had seven fatalities at junctions alone this year and Denmark has roughly double Britain’s overall cycling deaths per head of the population. On the other hand this is just half as many as Britain when measured against “cycling kilometres”. You can take your choice. In Britain a bicycle is just half as dangerous as a motorbike.

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