I have recently been seeking the community’s feedback on how we can improve support for cycling in our area, and I have now collected together all the responses from my online Cycle Survey and the recent Cycle Summit.
Firstly, I want to thank the many hundreds of people who replied to my survey or came along to the event. I greatly appreciate receiving your views and feedback, and it has been an excellent opportunity to consider the many diverse points of view on how we can best integrate the needs of cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and other road users.
The key issues raised by many of you included improving cycling facilities, prioritising cycle safety, increasing enforcement of the laws of the road, introducing third-party cycling insurance and educating cyclists/motorists alike on efficient sharing of road space.
On the first issue, many people felt that existing cycle paths were a mixed blessing as they are often poorly integrated into the existing road infrastructure and were regularly blocked by parked cars and other safety hazards. A poor cycle path was seen as worse than none at all, and over 60% of survey respondents felt that making these routes safer was ‘very important’ in encouraging people to cycle. Support for more segregated cycle lanes was on a smaller scale, but over 50% of people felt they too were very important.
This links into the second key issue of cycle safety, which sharply divided option. Many cyclists were of the opinion that motorists monopolised the road space and cyclists were often discouraged from cycling because of safety risks posed by unaware drivers. Over 50% of those surveyed supported lorries being required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars. On the other hand, many motorists felt that cyclists regularly flouted the laws of the road with no penalty, and that cyclists needed to take more responsibility for their own safety.
It was also clear that many felt the safety issue was strongly linked to enforcement of traffic laws, and over half of survey respondents felt the government should encourage more cycling by stronger enforcement of these laws. Motorists in particular felt that far too many cyclists continue to skip red lights and pedestrian crossings, though some cyclists defended borderline illegal behaviour as necessary for their safety in some circumstances.
A popular suggestion was that of requiring or encouraging third-party insurance for cyclists. It was clearly the view of many drivers that the balance of burdens on cyclists and motorists was unfair, and that cyclists should be required to contribute more for their use of road space and buy their own insurance. The survey response to potentially giving cyclists even more priority over motor traffic reflected this view, with over 50% of respondents indifferent or viewing the proposal as unimportant.
Finally, educating motorists and cyclists about road and cycle safety received wide support, and was the most popular suggested step the Government could take, with over 75% viewing it as important or very important. Improving understanding and respect between motorists and cyclists, and a change in road culture to emulate the continental European approach, were potential educational improvements that could be made, but – as stated above – some motorists were uneasy about national shifts in the level of priority given to cyclists. Educational measures focused on improving cycling proficiency and clarifying all road users’ rights and responsibilities may be the best response to this issue.
So, how can we progress from here? First off, I will be contacting the Council and relevant government ministers with the key issues and suggestions from your cycling feedback. The Council can do most to address the local issues of improving cycling facilities and safety, and so I will be setting out your concerns in these areas to them firstly. Improving enforcement, the suggestion of third-party insurance and educating road users are all issues of a national scope, and so I will be addressing these concerns specifically to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin. I hope to receive responses soon, and will keep you all informed of any positive progress made.
Sutton Council has recently sent me the following update on the work they are undertaking to promote cycling in the borough.
Cycle to Work- we have been running this salary sacrifice scheme council staff on LBS payroll for the past three years and plan to again this Summer. Since 2011 we have had 87 council staff apply and all now have new bikes. We promote Cycle to Work to large workplaces in Sutton and it is particularly successful in attracting hospital and school staff applicants.
Dr Bike programme- we have a Dr Bike mechanic attending 36 on-street events over the Summer in St Helier, Carshalton, Wallington, Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park. When available Safer Neighbourhood teams will be attending to carry out bike marking and give advice on safety and security. Events have been fairly well attended with 26 bikes checked and 16 bike marked so far. Details have been put up on park noticeboards and several shops, libraries, and workplaces across the borough.
Dr Bike will also attend cycling events at large workplaces including St Helier hospital, Royal Marsden, Subsea 7, Reed Business Information, and Sutton Council. We will also attend community events such as the Rotary Cheam Festival, St Helier festival, and Carshalton Environmental Fair. We have also had an Exchanging Places event in Sutton High St which highlights the dangers of cycling near HGV’s. There will be another Exchanging Places event on Sutton High St on 27 Sept.
Sutton cycling guide- we have developed this as a promotional resource tool to encourage people back to cycling. The guide contains a map of ‘quiet routes’ in the borough as well as details of cycling clubs and cycle shops.
Cycle parking audit- an audit on current cycle parking facilities in the borough is being carried out at the moment and will be completed by late-May. In particular we will be looking at the possibility of installing more secure cycle parking on housing estates.
Cycle training- training is still being offered to all schools in the borough. Training is still free to all adults.
LIP allocation- schemes for 2014/2015 include cycle lanes, improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, and school travel plan schemes.
Safer Urban Driving training- we trained 38 of LBS’s 47 fleet drivers in March this year. The course involves two sessions taking out drivers on a practical module where they ride a bike around or near HGV’s and LGV’s so they can see the road from a cyclist’s perspective. The second is a classroom session where they are taught tips on avoiding accidents with cyclists. We have funding to teach 20 drivers in Sutton this year and plan to train our remaining drivers and approach Sutton businesses with HGV or LGV fleets.
Schools engagement- ‘Bike It +’ is funded by Transport for London and Sutton and delivered by Sustrans in partnership with Sutton.
The programme aims to increase levels of cycling to school through tailored assistance and activities to meet each schools needs and create a pro-cycling culture. Bike It Officers work with pupils, staff, parents and the wider community to achieve:
· Sustained increase in the number of children and young people (and parents) cycling to school.
· Reduction in the use of private motor vehicles to take children and young people to school.
· Provide children and young people with cycling skills for life.
The Bike It + programme in Sutton works in ‘hubs’. Each ‘Bike It hub’, is formed of one secondary school and five primary schools. This is to develop stronger links for continued cycling in the transition from primary to secondary school and beyond.
Activities and delivery
Bike It Officers work with each school to create a bespoke programme of activity from the Bike It menu, based on their needs. The programme also offers additional activities to engage with children and young people, including life skills and employment opportunities and to engage further with parents through various programmes.