Cycle & Car Safety - Don't Blame Politicians, Just Be Careful

Over the weekend, some news outlets reported the sad death of a female cyclist, killed in an accident with a HGV at a junction in East London.

Cycle and vehicle accidents are worryingly common - thousands of cyclist collisions are recorded each year, and in 2012, 122 cyclists were killed on UK roads.

The latest incident centers around the fact the rider was on one of London's recently-introduced Cycle Superhighways - blue-painted lanes located on major routes - and riding one of London's bicycle share bikes, known colloquially as 'Boris Bikes'.

Playing the blame game

Cyclists

Full details of the incident are yet to emerge, a state of affairs alluded to in the BBC's report of the accident:

"We don't know the exact circumstances of what happened," it says, adding "Whether the experience of the cyclist riding the hire bike is a factor we don't know. We also don't know yet if the painted blue lane of the Cycle Superhighway lulled the cyclist into a false sense of security."

There could be truth in either statement - the rider may have been unfamiliar with the fairly bulky Boris Bike, and London's blue-painted cycle lanes may seem inviting to cyclists even if a particular junction is busy or dangerous.

It'd be wrong to speculate. Or, like the BBC, you could go ahead and speculate anyway:

"The bike hire and cycling superhighways are both Mayoral flagship transport projects and now someone has died while using them... the Mayor will have to answer serious questions about the safety of his cycling schemes."

Now, hang on a second! You can't report "We don't know the exact circumstances of what happened" before demanding answers of the guy who implemented schemes to increase bike travel.

Not only does it make no more sense than baying for the blood of the city planner who granted space to a bank shortly before a bank robbery, but it's also lazy, purely speculative reporting, and diverts attention away from the real issue of cyclist and vehicular collisons: The cyclists and the drivers themselves.

Accidents happen

Cyclist in London

The UK's roads are incredibly crowded, as anyone partaking in the morning rush hour will attest. We all share those roads with other vehicles, be they large HGVs or people on bicycles - and nobody has any more right to be there than anyone else.

What we do have is a responsibility to conduct ourselves on those roads in a way that minimises the chance of danger to ourselves and others. That's as relevant for two cars approaching each other on a country road or a dozen cars sharing the same bit of motorway as it is a cyclist and a truck driver in close proximity at a crowded junction.

Whether you love or hate Boris (or indeed any politician), apportioning blame to a well-meaning scheme because of a tragedy suggests the accident was an inevitability; that that this junction will be littered with casualties whenever the two shall mix, and it's all the fault of those who designed the roads.

This couldn't be further from the truth, and the tens of thousands of road users who pass through such a junction every week without issue are testament to this.

Play it safe

Cyclist and Jaguar

There is a really, very simple way of keeping drivers and cyclists safe on the roads - it's called paying attention. Cyclists, drivers: Look. Listen. Look again. Signal appropriately. Give each other space. If in doubt, give yourself more time to make a manoeuvre.

Accidents happen, of course. That cyclist deaths remain broadly the same each year - as do other road deaths, crime figures and other national statistics - implies that while hugely sad for those involved, there will always be casualties if a certain number of people share the roads.

But whether tragic, as with the loss of a cyclist this weekend, or simply a small knock, playing the blame game with those who govern us seems too much like an excuse to waive our own sense of responsibility.

Need any hints and tips for sharing the road with cyclists? Check out our guide to what drivers can do to be more cyclist aware.

(Images: Jaguar, ant217, ChrisLikesCake, Cosmic Smudge)

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