Published on Sustans, August 2012 edition of The Network.
If you believe what you read the tabloids, or some cycling blogs, you might well think there is a war on our roads. Toad of Toad Hall versus the lycra lout. The truth, of course, is that many motorists cycle and many cyclists drive. And we all have an interest in sharing the road safely.
Twenty miles per hour zones are popular with residents and cycling groups. Despite some reports, motorists aren’t as opposed to them as you might think. Ninety- two per cent of IAM members support 20mph speed limits for some areas.
Most drivers naturally lower their speeds in narrow residential streets anyway, as they change their driving according to the environment. That’s one of the reasons why Woonerfs – completely shared roads – in Holland are so successful.
But reducing speed isn’t the only way to fix our road safety problems. A bigger cultural change is needed if we are really going to get accident rates down.
We see tackling poor driving attitudes and skills as the best way to reduce casualties.
For example, ‘failing to look properly’ is a factor in a third of all road accidents, so improving awareness and concentration is likely to save more lives than changing the speed limit.
That’s why in York we are working with the council to give young drivers training that makes them aware of their mistakes and the limitations of their car. This project, part of the IAM’s Momentum young driver initiative aims to change attitudes for life.
Enforcement is also needed. Tackling serious offences should be a top priority.
Five years ago 92 per cent of people convicted of causing death or bodily harm while driving were sentenced to immediate custody, by 2011 the figure had dropped to 53 per cent.
The number of people facing prosecution for causing death by dangerous driving also fell by almost 30 per cent between 2010 to 2011. We need to put pressure on the government to continue to invest in policing and the justice system.
No one group of road users is perfect. In London, some cyclists break 20mph speed limits. Pay a visit to Richmond Park and you’ll see this. Cyclists jumping red lights doesn’t always put others at risk but it does lose drivers’ respect – something that is vital if they are to be seen as equal road users.