One explanation for fewer bikes on the roads: fear of cars

Now and again I let slip in my posts that I'm a guy who bikes to run errands. There's nothing bad about using a bike for getting around, especially in a city. But, like motorcyclers and scooter drivers, you're a lot more exposed to the environment on two wheels than in four. And the results of being hit by a car are not pretty (that picture doesn't show any gore. You can find those on your own).
A British charity group called Brake and Green Flag released the results of a survey today that shows there would be a lot more people biking if there were more safe bike paths. The detailed press release is after the jump, but the upshot is that a third (36 percent) of 645 survey respondents who do not cycle said one of their reasons was fear of traffic.

I think that dedicated bike paths (whether on things like rails to trails or wide sidewalks that run parallel to roads) can make a great difference in CO2 emissions because they would encourage more bike use. I think most trips of <5 miles (on a nice weather day) aren't any sort of hassle for most people with access to and the ability to ride a bike, and it's those short trips where ICEs are so terribly inefficient. Governments everywhere should be trying to encourage bike use, IMHO.

There's so much more to say about biking, but I'll leave it at this for now. Well, except for one more thing.

Yes, being hit by a car is frightening when I bike on the roads, and I take my chances (I'm safe, though, always wearing a helmet and double-checking cross traffic at intersections). The thing that bothers me the most about biking are the ignorant people, the guys (always men) who yell out of their vehicles (almost always trucks) ridiculous things at bikers. These guys think "Get a car!" or "A$$h***!" are somehow appropriate to yell at someone who's decided to not use a car when he doesn't have to. How wrong they are.

[Source: Brake and Green Flag]
Scared cyclists are staying off the road

Research launched today reveals the extent of the cycling fear factor in the UK with two thirds of drivers admitting they never get out of the car and cycle on roads because they fear traffic.

National road safety charity Brake and Green Flag can today reveal that 64% of drivers say they never cycle on roads, many through fear of traffic.

Recently-released provisional Government figures show that in 2006 an alarming 2,420 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on roads in Great Britain [1]. From 2003-2005 there was a horrifying 30% rise in cycle deaths [2] (2006 death statistics not yet available). Bicycle use in Great Britain is decreasing. The average number of cycle trips made per person per year fell from an average of 18 from 1995 - 1997 to just 14 in 2005. Every year, statistics show that more and more young people, to the detriment of their health and well-being, are being driven to school. 43% of primary pupils and 22% of secondary pupils are now driven to school [3].

Brake believes more people would cycle – a healthy, congestion-easing and environmentally-friendly means of transport – if the national cycle network included more off-road cycle paths between homes and amenities. As the research shows, many drivers understand how risky the roads are for cyclists and will only get out of their cars if they can do so 'off-road'.

Brake is also calling for the Government to get serious about its bid to persuade people to use their cars less and invest in road engineering measures to protect cyclists and pedestrians such as 20mph safety zones around our schools and homes.

Jools Townsend, head of education at Brake, said: "It's terrible that so many people are afraid to get on a bicycle because of fear of traffic, and worse their fears are justified. Too many people try to cocoon themselves and their families in cars, leading to more vehicles on our roads and an even greater threat to pedestrians and cyclists. Choosing cycling and walking over the car is good for your health and the environment, so we should be encouraging it. But people won't be persuaded to get on their bikes - quite rightly - unless they can do so without putting their lives in danger. It's time the Government put some serious investment into the national cycle network and other measures to enable people to walk and cycle safely."

Philippa Naylor, spokesperson for Green Flag, commented: "With so much discussion about people's health and the 'carbon footprint', it is a shame that so few would cycle but perhaps not surprising given the high number who are killed or seriously injured each year. Two thirds of the drivers surveyed would not cycle because they think it is dangerous so hopefully they will remember this when they are behind the wheel and look out for cyclists. We would advise motorists to always check for cyclists on the inside when turning left and ensure they have enough space, especially in bad weather conditions."

Key findings of the Brake and Green Flag survey:
More than a third (35%) say they would use cycle paths to travel from home to local amenities if they were available
Nearly half (47%) of respondents never cycle
Of the 508 respondents who do cycle, 34% only do so on paths and away from roads
A third (34%) of those who cycle on roads think dangerous drivers outnumber safe drivers
One in three (36%) of the 645 respondents who never cycle on roads do so for reasons including fear of traffic

Case study
David Standard's father Sid was killed in 2003 in a road crash while he was riding his bike. David, head of media relations at Brake corporate partners Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, said his father was a well-known cyclist. A tram in Nottingham is named in his honour for the work he did introducing thousands of young people to the sport, including Olympic medallists. David is no stranger to cycling. He is a former captain of the Great Britain cycling team and raised money for charity by cycling across Cuba in 2001. David says: "I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to support Brake in their work to make the nation's roads safer and to help those people who have been bereaved through road crashes. Everyone uses the roads and everyone has a right to feel safe whether cycling, walking or driving."

To help highlight the importance of road safety, David and four other Brake volunteers are using pedal power to raise funds and awareness by biking from London to Paris on a five-day charity challenge which gets underway next week on 13 June 2007. David is available for media interviews, please contact Dianne Ferreira, communications officer at Brake to arrange, 01484 559909.

Taking part and raising vital funds for the education, bereavement care and campaigning work of Brake, are also social worker Rebecca Crawley, Motability Operations head of insurance Will Thompson, company driver trainer Russ Moggridge and community campaigner Martin Edwards (see editor's notes for more details on these cyclists). The cycle ride gets underway at 7am on 13 June 2007 at Black Heath, outside The Clarendon Hotel (postcode SE3 ORW) in Greenwich.

The London to Paris ride takes place during Bike Week (16 – 24 June 2007), the UK's annual 'celebration of cycling' with more than 1,500 events expected to attract more than 250,000 participants. Organisers say Bike Week is a great opportunity for people to discover, or re-discover, the appeal of cycling. The Bike Week website has information about how you can get involved.

This year, child pedestrian and cyclist safety is the focus of Brake's annual Road Safety Week (5-11 November 2007). Local communities around the country will be taking part in initiatives to urge drivers to slow down around schools and homes and Brake will be hosting national and regional media launches to call for measures to protect children on foot and bikes. You can find more information at

Cycling safely
See the Brake website for a page of comprehensive cycling safety tips such as:
  • Use off-road cycle paths where provided
  • Always wear a helmet and make sure it fits properly
  • Always wear a high-visibility vest when on the road, with fluorescent and reflective strips
  • Read the Highway Code and undertake formal cycling training before taking to the road for the first time or with little experience
If you are lucky enough to live in an area with cycle paths, which are separate and protected from traffic, then there really isn't any excuse not to get on your bike. Cycling is a great way to get and maintain a good level of fitness, and it is an easy way to exercise as part of your daily routine, on the way to school, work or the shops. Modern bikes are lightweight and many are affordable.

In March, the Government launched Bikeability (, the 'cycling proficiency test for the 21 st century, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on today's roads. The national award scheme replaces the old cycling proficiency training. It has been launched following a six-month pilot involving 5,000 children in eight Local Authorities. The scheme has been created by Cycling England, a Government body aiming to increase cycle use and safety among cyclists. Adults can also attain the award.
Notes to Editors

[1] The Department for Transport's provisional Road Casualties in Great Britain, which includes statistics (rounded to the nearest 10) on road casualties in Great Britain in 2006
[2] The Department for Transport Road Casualties in Great Britain 2005
[3] Department for Transport's National Travel Survey 2006

Brake volunteers taking part in the London to Paris Bike Ride
  • Rebecca Crawley is a social worker with Bedfordshire Social Services. Her brother Neil was just 31 when he was killed in a car crash in February 2004, leaving behind his wife and two small children. Rebecca says: "Just before Christmas I decided that I wanted to take part in an event in Neil's honour and raise both money and awareness. I had just bought a bike and felt that the London to Paris ride would be achievable. My aim is to raise awareness and if the money I raise can, in some way, prevent just one family going through the heartache that we have then it will all have been worth it!"
  • Martin Edwards, 21, of Oxford, edits his local newsletter and works on hospital radio. As an ardant supporter of Brake he thinks drivers' attitudes must change to help solve the problems on our roads. He says: "Switching off your phone, turning your lights on when it rains and leaving a two-second gap couldn't be easier – but many drivers think they are exempt from such things. As a keen cyclist, and thus a daily witness of bad driving, taking part in the London to Paris ride is a great way for me to show my support for Brake."
  • Will Thompson is head of insurance with Brake supporters Motability Operations, which specialises in sourcing and delivering motoring services to disabled people. Will, from London, says: "Through my work I see the outcomes of fatal and serious injury insurance claims all the time. I think Brake is doing a fantastic job in raising the whole road safety agenda and I am delighted to be doing something positive to help Brake's ongoing work."
  • Russ Moggridge works for Carlsberg and has found Brake an invaluable aid, using the charity's wealth of material for training company drivers. The 39-year-old from Yorkshire says: "This is my way of saying 'thank you' to Brake for the free provision of resources which help make our fleets safer on the roads. This year, I made a New Year's resolution to get fit and, although I am not an experienced cyclist, I have got myself into training and am looking forward to taking part in the 500-mile cycle ride for Brake."

Brake is an independent national road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the 9 deaths and 82 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake produces educational road safety literature, runs community training programmes and runs events including Road Safety Week (5 – 11 November 2007). Brake's Fleet Safety Forum provides up-to-date fleet safety resources to fleet managers. BrakeCare, Brake's support division, cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.
Green Flag

Green Flag Motoring Assistance provides roadside rescue and recovery to over 5m customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Green Flag's incident management centre in Leeds manages around 1m breakdown incidents each year.

Survey results in full:

Q. Do you every cycle on roads?
33% cycle on roads
17% do not cycle on roads but use cycle paths and trails, away from roads
47% never cycle
3% did not answer

Q. Is your decision not to cycle on roads because you think it is dangerous?
17% don't cycle on roads mainly because it is dangerous
19% don't cycle on roads for several reasons, including it is dangerous
52% have other reasons
12% did not answer

Q. If there were more cycle paths and trails connecting your home to local amenities, would you choose to ride a bike on them?
35% answered yes
54% answered no
11% did not answer

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