Make streets safer for cycling to build on Tour de France fever, says charity

Thursday 3 July 2014

Brake, the road safety charity

As Britain gets set to host the first stage of the Tour de France – with the 'Grand Départ' from Yorkshire underway this Saturday – a survey of more than 1,000 young people published today by Brake and insurer RSA Group has revealed teen angst about taking to two wheels [1].

As millions of fans descend on Yorkshire to watch the world's cycling stars, Brake and RSA are warning that action is needed from national and local government across the UK to make cycling safer, to enable the next generation to take it up and enjoy the benefits without fearing for their safety.

The Brake and RSA survey, carried out as part of a UK-wide project for safer streets for teens, finds:

  • Only one in 11 (9%) teens cycle weekly or more, while one in four (23%) never cycle
  • Four in 10 (42%) would like to be able to start cycling or cycle more
  • Of those, 39% say lack of safe routes is a factor preventing them
  • 46% say their parents would worry about them cycling
  • 32% say they would feel nervous cycling on local roads

Brake today said that introducing 20mph limits in towns and cities alongside more traffic free cycling and walking routes and improvements to road design would help deliver a legacy of healthy, active, green communities where everyone can cycle and walk without being endangered. They are also calling on drivers everywhere to help make roads safer for cycling, by slowing down to 20 in built up areas, taking bends and junctions cautiously, giving space to cyclists and looking out for people on bike and foot.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, says: "'Le Tour' coming to our home county is a great coup for the region and the UK, and great timing given the wave of enthusiasm for cycling. But our survey shows many young people – our next generation of cycling stars – want to cycle more, but are wary of doing so. It remains that fast traffic and inadequate safe routes have a major impact on people's ability to choose and enjoy cycling, and children and young people's ability to live active lifestyles. It's a sad state of affairs that our next Bradley Wiggins may never get on a bike because his mum says it's too dangerous.

"We believe everyone should be able to cycle or walk in their community without fear or threat. Anyone who drives can help bring this about: pledge to 'GO 20' around homes, schools and shops, and take great care to look out for cyclists and pedestrians this summer and year-round. We're also appealing to local and national government to recognise the huge demand for, and importance of, safe walking and cycling, and implement widespread 20mph limits and safe routes."

Peter Collins, head of corporate responsibility for RSA, says: "In a year when the Tour de France starts in the UK with a current British champion it's sad to see that so many of our teens are put off cycling by safety fears. Not only is cycling good for health; there are also environmental benefits – but safety is paramount and that's why initiatives like 'GO 20' are so important."

The survey of teens was conducted as part of a UK-wide project by Brake and RSA to engage secondary schools and colleges in road safety and help make streets safe for teens, in the lead-up to this year's Road Safety Week, coordinated by Brake on 17-23 November.

Brake is part of GO 20, a coalition of 11 charities calling for: more local authorities to implement 20mph limits across towns, cities and villages; the government to work towards 20mph being the norm in all our communities; and drivers to pledge to GO 20 around homes, schools and shops.

Why GO 20:

  • Fewer casualties: at 20, drivers have much more time to react and stop in time if they need to. Studies show when 20 limits replace 30, it means fewer casualties among pedestrians and cyclists [2].
  • More walking and cycling: danger from traffic is a major barrier in enabling more people to walk and cycle. Town and city-wide 20 limits have resulted in more people walking and cycling [3].
  • Healthier, happier people: More walking and cycling means healthier people, and more enjoyable outdoors activity for kids and adults. It helps communities interact and be communities.
  • Less pollution: GOing 20 means lower emissions from vehicle journeys [4]. Plus if more people can switch their commute or school run to foot or bike, it means less polluting traffic.
  • Lower costs: Poor health from inactivity costs society dearly [5]. Road casualties cost even more, due to the suffering and burden on health and emergency services [6]. Preventing casualties and improving health means GOing 20 pays for itself many times over [7]. It also helps people save money by choosing the cheapest ways to get about: foot and bike.

Notes to editors

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, a Fleet Safety Forum, practitioner services, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About RSA Group
With a 300 year heritage, RSA is one of the world's leading multinational quoted insurance groups. RSA has major operations in the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, Ireland, Asia and the Middle East, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe and has the capability to write business in around 140 countries. Focusing on general insurance, RSA has around 23,000 employees and, in 2013, its net written premiums were £8.7 billion.

As a leading car insurer they have an interest in promoting safety awareness and reducing the number of crashes on our roads. In the UK, they have been a partner of Brake since 2011. They undertake road safety campaigns in many of their businesses across the world.

End notes
[1] Brake sampled 1,066 young people, anonymously, age 11 to 17, as part of an ongoing 'hands-up' survey conducted by secondary schools and colleges into their attitudes to cycling and road safety
[2] For example, 20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001; 20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010
[3] Where widespread 20 limits have been introduced levels of walking and cycling increased by 20% Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012
[4 Environmental effects of 30 km/h in urban areas – with regard to exhaust emissions and noise, The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, 1999
[5] The annual costs of physical inactivity in England are estimated at £8.2 billion. At least five a week - evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health - a report from the Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, 2004
[6] Road casualties in Britain cost an estimated £34.8billion in 2011, due to the burden on health and emergency services, criminal justice costs, insurance payouts, and human costs. Reported road casualties Great Britain annual reports 2011, Department for Transport, 2012
[7] In Bristol, 20mph resulted in a massive return on investment because of cost savings to the health service through increased physical activity. They used the World Health Organisation's Health Economic Assessment Tool to estimate the changes in costs. They found for every £1 spent they saw a return of £24.72 through increased walking and £7.47 through increased in cycling. Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012. Reducing speeds in urban environments reduces casualties. For each 1mph speed reduction, casualties decrease by 5%, The effects of drivers' speed on the frequency of road accidents, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000, fewer crashes reduces the burden on the NHS, emergency services and local economy. Each death on roads costs £1.7 million and each serious injury costs £190,000, Reported road casualties Great Britain 2011, Department for Transport, 2012

Tags: 20mph cycling cyclist vulnerable road users