Make streets safer for cycling to deliver Olympic legacy, say national campaigners

As survey reveals cyclists think traffic in their area is too fast for safety

28 March 2013

Brake, the road safety charity
Tel: 01484 559909, e: news@brake.org.uk

At the start of British summertime, road safety charity Brake and British Cycling are calling for action from national and local government to improve cycling in our towns and cities by ‘GOing 20’ and introducing widespread 20mph limits. The campaigners today (28 March) published a survey of 1,000 cyclists [1] revealing that nine in 10 (88%) think traffic is too fast on roads in their area and an overwhelming 98% said more should be done to make local streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The survey also revealed:

  • Safer roads would encourage people to cycle more: 46% would cycle more local journeys, 44% would cycle more for leisure or exercise and 40% would cycle more to work, given safer local routes
  • Seven in 10 (68%) say widespread 20mph limits are needed in their area to make cycling and walking safer.

When asked in 2012, nearly two thirds (65%) of British Cycling members said reducing residential speed limits to 20mph would reduce injuries to cyclists [2].

Brake and British Cycling today said that introducing 20mph limits in towns and cities alongside improvements to existing road design would help produce more safe cycling routes to 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 do their bit to make roads safer, by slowing down, giving space to cyclists and looking out for people on bike and foot.

Brake and British Cycling are part of GO 20, a coalition of 11 charities and organisations 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.

Since November 2012 when the GO 20 campaign launched, significant progress has been made for GO 20 across the UK. The UK government and Welsh Assembly both recently moved to encourage more 20mph limits in England and Wales, especially where lots of people do or might walk or cycle. Transport for London also recently announced a raft of safe cycling measures in London. Read Brake’s reaction to the Department for Transport, Welsh Assembly, and TfL announcements.

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 [3].
  • 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 [4].
  • 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 [5]. 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 [6]. Road casualties cost even more, due to the suffering and burden on health and emergency services [7]. Preventing casualties and improving health means GOing 20 pays for itself many times over [8]. It also helps people save money by choosing the cheapest ways to get about: foot and bike. 

Read more about the case for GO 20.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, says: “As we move into British summertime, more people will be taking to their bikes to commute, exercise, or enjoy the longer days. But this survey shows what a long way we have to go before the UK’s streets are truly cyclist-friendly. It remains that fast traffic and inadequate safe routes have a major impact on people’s ability to choose and enjoy cycling. We believe everyone should be able to cycle or walk in their community or to get to work or school 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 more authorities to recognise the huge demand for safe walking and cycling, and enormous benefits of widespread 20mph limits and safe routes, and GO 20.”

Martin Gibbs, British Cycling’s Policy and Legal Affairs Director, said: “We know from listening to our members and from the results of this survey that reducing speed limits where people live is an important part of encouraging more people to cycle more often. We need the Department for Transport to take the findings of this survey seriously and to really make a commitment to putting cycling at the heart of transport policy so that through measures like lower speed limits and well designed roads, junctions and cycle lanes that cycling becomes the norm our towns and cities.”

Anyone can pledge their support for safer walking and cycling at go20.org.

Notes for editors

GO 20 is a partnership campaign launched in Road Safety Week 2012. Find out more at www.go20.org.

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 66 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

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.

British Cycling is the national governing body for cycling as recognised by the UCI – the international federation for the sport. Based in Manchester at the National Cycling Centre, British Cycling works across all levels and six disciplines of the sport (BMX, Mountain Bike, Cyclo-Cross, Road, Track and Cycle Speedway), from providing the support and encouragement people need to get riding their bikes for the first time, to being home to the hugely successful Great Britain Cycling Team. Continued success at the highest level is inspiring a boom in participation across the nation. There have never been more opportunities to ride a bike, be it for fun or sport, and British Cycling is at the heart of this growth. British Cycling also works hard to represent cyclists’ interests at all levels, including campaigning on important issues including road safety. As a membership organisation, British Cycling provides a suite of benefits and support to its members who currently number over 68,500. All membership revenue is invested back into cycling. For more information, visit www.britishcycling.org.uk

End notes

[1] 1,085 cyclists gave their views through an anonymous online  survey, promoted by Brake and British Cycling, Brake, 2013

[2] More than 1,000 British Cycling members responded to a Road Safety Report in January 2012.

[3] For example, 20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001;  20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010

[4] 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

[5] 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

[6] 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

[7]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

[8] 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