Cycling has always been a student’s favourite. It gives you an extra twenty minutes in bed in the morning, is cheaper than running a car, and is an excellent way of keeping fit and healthy. However, in 2011, 670 cyclists were injured on Southampton’s roads, provoking concerns over cyclists’ safety in the city.
Dilys Gartside, spokesperson for the Southampton Cycling Campaign, said: ‘excessive speed of motorised vehicles in built-up areas where roads are narrower combined with lack of space given by them when passing a cyclist are my main concerns for cyclists’.
All cyclists can list at least one near miss with another road user, often when they have done nothing wrong. Being undertaken, clipped by overtaking cars and having cars pulling out in front of them at junctions are the most common dangers, although luckily accidents are not usually fatal. Car uses do often appear inconsiderate towards cyclists, passing too close out of frustration, or simply not looking carefully enough.
Luckily accidents are not usually fatal.
Cyclists often blame other road users for the accidents, and indeed in most cases cars and in particular lorries are at fault in collisions. However, this is not always the case, and cyclists need to be aware of how vulnerable they are on the road. There are numerous stories of drivers nearly hitting bikes at night, when the rider isn’t wearing any hi-viz clothing and has no lights, rendering them completely invisible to other road users. It is still getting dark at about four o’clock, and it is vital that cyclists make themselves seen on the road. Just a reflective or florescent jacket gives a driver an extra three seconds to see you, and can be the difference between hitting and missing you. It is also a legal requirement that if you are riding on the roads at night that you have lights on your bike. Failure to do so can result in a £30 fine, and police do have the power to confiscate your bike.
Police do have the power to confiscate your bike.
Despite the warnings, many cyclists ignore the safety advice, arguing that the hi-viz clothing is unfashionable and doesn’t increase their safety. However, many accidents could have been avoided if the cyclists do everything possible to make themselves seen. So it’s not just a question of red tape gone mad; cycling without reflective clothing or lights is dangerous, for both the cyclist and other road users.
Gartside, and many others, argue that we need ‘strict liability’ imposed in UK as on the continent. ‘This is the presumption that, in the event of a collision between road users, the more dominant user is deemed to be at fault. For example in a crash between a cyclist and pedestrian, the cyclist would be seen to beat fault, but between a car and cyclist, the car is assumed to be at fault, unless this can be proved otherwise’.
The Police have stopped nearly 4,000 cyclists in the last six and a half years and are trying to help protect cyclists in Portswood and Southampton. One method is to enforce No Cycling zones, and another is the council is supporting road cycling training for the over 16s in the county. They are also cracking down on cyclists who break laws such as not having lights, cycling through red lights, or cycling on pavements. In Portswood signs have already been put up and a £30 fine implemented. Already, one person has been fined for cycling on the pavement along Portswood High Street.
Despite the risks and concerns, cycling has, according to British Cycling, increased by 15% between 2008 and 2009, a sure sign that the benefits of cycling far outweigh the costs. As with any sport, cycling is dangerous, but with the appropriate care and attention, it is no more risky than walking to uni and helps ensure that more students are able to arrive on time for their 9:00 lectures.