The Times of London used to be, and maybe still is, Britain’s premier newspaper.
In it they put forward an 8-point manifesto to improve safety for cyclists:
- Trucks entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
- The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
- A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
- Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
- The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
- 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
- Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
- Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.
My first reaction was, “Wow, this is a huge turn around for the Times.” It had me searching back through my old blog posts for a piece I wrote a little over four years ago in January 2008. Matthew Parris, a Times columnist, had just written an inflammatory article about cyclists.
In it Parris suggested stringing wire across country lanes in England to decapitate cyclists. The piece brought protests from bike bloggers like me and from cyclists worldwide.
Matthew Parris gave a half assed apology; he brushed it off as humor that was misunderstood. Apart from that, as far as I know, Parris was not reprimanded or censored by the Times; he kept his job and I notice he still writes for the Times.
So what has brought about this huge pro-cycling turn-around for the Times newspaper? I quote from their own front page:
In November, Times journalist Mary Bowers was just yards from arriving at work on her bike when she was hit by a lorry. Mary, 27, is still not conscious and is making a slow recovery in hospital.
Tragically, such an accident is far from rare. More than 27,000 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on British streets in the past 10 years.
On the urban roads of Britain today cyclists need to be fit for cities. Cycling should be both safe and pleasurable. Ministers, mayors and local authorities must build cities that are fit for cycling.
Yes, it really brings it home when it is someone you know that is either killed or seriously injured.
I am pleased that the Times are launching this campaign; it is much needed. But, it is also sad that it takes yet another tragedy to make important newspapers and others sit up and take notice.
Is this what it is going to take? For more and more people to actually know someone who died or was seriously injured while riding a bike; before the situation changes and people start taking responsibility for the control of the vehicle they are driving.
Because this is what it boils down to; almost all of these tragedies are avoidable.