27 thoughts on “Cycling and health”

  1. I use my bike to get around everywhere when I am in Cornwall. This summer I was run off the road by a clotted cream lorry, choked by a bus with a dodgy exhaust and lived in constant fear of bad driving. I have even heard people confess to attempting to scare cyclists when they are driving because they dislike them so much.

    Well done Boris for highlighting the safety of cyclists. Whilst there is much we can do ourselves (wear helmets, be visible, etc) it means nothing if hit by a ton of fast moving of metal.

  2. A US study indicated that over 50% of bike accidents resulting in hospital admissions had the cyclist’s blood alcohol as a contributing factor. There’s another 32 questions for Boris to ask…

  3. Why should I be interested in Boris Johnson’s views on cycling when elsewhere he glorifies driving cars at high speed?
    .
    [on driving a Ferrari] “I seemed to be averaging a speed of X and then the M3 opened up before me, a long quiet Bonneville flat stretch, and I am afraid it was as though the whole county of Hampshire was lying back and opening her well-bred legs to be ravished by the Italian stallion.”
    .
    Survey after survey has shown that the reason more people don’t ride a bike is because they (justifiably) feel it is not safe. I prefer to listen to grass-roots cycle campaigners rather than someone who must see the world in such a piece-meal way.

  4. Of course it was the party that Boris Johnson represents that laid the groundwork in the 80s and 90s for the explosion in road traffic that we’re now blighted with.
    .
    Personally I think the rank and file of the party still believe more and bigger roads will solve the problem.

  5. “Why should I be interested in Boris Johnson’s views on cycling when elsewhere he glorifies driving cars at high speed?” (Benjon).

    What an extraordinary thing to say. Why should I be interested in Livingstone’s views on cycling when he rarely uses a bike? Unlike Boris.

  6. What a low quality post PaulD! Number 1, did benjon suggest we should listen to Livingstone on cycling and Number 2, if we did happen to pay attention to him he’s prepared the way for 20mph speed limits in every residential street in London.
    .
    That will certainly boost cycling numbers and cut casualties.

  7. The majority of comments beggar belief! As a car owner-driver who has recently taken up cycling on London’s roads for health purposes, the hand dealt to cyclists is apalling. My regard and respect for cyclists has obvioulsy increased, however the average driver hasn’t got a clue how to deal with the presense of cyclists and the roads are no way rider-friendly in no shape or form. Gaping holes, crazy bus drivers, drivers intent on turning cyclists into the filling in a car panel sandwich, if we want to encourage cycling then I feel we have to look to examples in other cities like Amsterdam. Education, should be a starting point… teach the road users who to deal with cyclists!!

  8. Talking of low quality posts, Skenfrith, you are playing with my words. Livingstone is the transport supremo in London and _should_ be able to talk authoritatively as a cyclist, even if he doesn’t. Perhaps I should have said Al Gore is in no position to talk expertly about climate change when he’s a failed politician who leaves all his lights on. Do you understand that metaphor, or would you prefer not to?

    As for 20mph, your thinking is severely restricted, as it usually is with people who fall for headline-grabbing initiatives.

    Certainly boost cycling numbers? Certainly? Why?

    Cut casualities? Oh right, you’ve been looking at those one-dimensional studies which plot speed against injury. What they don’t take into account is the effect of continuing to “protect” the pedestrian with ever-slower traffic speeds to the point where they – children in particular – think it’s perfectly safe to wander in the road. Result: More casualties.

    And you may also have overlooked that 20mph is an inefficient speed for most modern cars, increasing consumption and pollution. But since the average speed is, what, 11mph in London, I don’t imagine it will make much difference anyway.

  9. PaulD: “Certainly boost cycling numbers? Certainly? Why?”
    .
    Because survey after survey reports that “not safe enough” is the reason why people who would like to cycle don’t.
    .
    PaulD: “What they don’t take into account is the effect of continuing to ‘protect’ the pedestrian with ever-slower traffic speeds to the point where they – children in particular – think it’s perfectly safe to wander in the road. Result: More casualties.”
    .
    Right: perhaps we should *raise* all urban road speed limits to 40mph: that’ll stop children trying to cross the road and hurting themselves, right?
    .
    […]

  10. PaulD is out of his depth on transport issues. There was a discussion on the old site about how the high front on SUVs is more likely to injure children than the front of a standard car (where they are more likely to end up on the bonnet). PaulD’s comment was “what about buses: they’ve got a high front too” (!)

  11. Because survey after survey reports that “not safe enough” is the reason why people who would like to cycle don’t (Skenfrith).

    Fair enough. But I do wonder if a limit change from 30 to 20, when actual speed through London averages about 11mph, would make much difference. The manoeuvres that frighten cyclists most occur at even slower speeds, like being pinched by a vehicle turning left at a junction.

    “Perhaps we should *raise* all urban road speed limits to 40mph: that’ll stop children trying to cross the road and hurting themselves, right?”

    It does not follow, and you know it. The art is to strike a balance between many factors – vehicle progress, driver alertness/frustration, pedestrian awareness and so on. Even you might agree that in the big wide world, our obsession with risk avoidance and bubble-wrapping of children has actually made them more vulnerable by dampening their awareness of danger. The same applies to some extent on the roads; that’s all I’m saying.

    The only safe speed is 0 mph.

  12. Increase in Attention Deficit disorders and concerns that it is an under researched topic outlined many reports of adults presenting the symptoms – hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattentiveness that are associated, among other impairments, with road traffic accidents (Morrison, 1980a, b), as well as with increased levels of antisocial disorders (Faraone et al, 2000).

    It may be irrelevant but, under safety policies, I also found conducting risk assessment for the use of antiperspirants in public places must be a serious concern for public health – since for example in some countries long exposure to local made products have serious effects on your nerve system !

  13. Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: “The future looks grim for Britain’s beleaguered commuters. Labour’s record on roads is dreadful, travellers deserve a lot better.”

    The conservatives record on roads was far worse: build them even if they fill up in 5 years with new long distance commuters.

  14. What a remarkable memory you have, Benjon (6:43). Mine is not so good. I do not recall you making the point that children are more likely to end up on the bonnet of a car than on an SUV.

    Perhaps you could also tell us how many children in London are killed by SUVs when they would have suffered only a glancing blow if the vehicle involved had been a car. Just curious.

    And if the height of the vehicle’s front is the only consideration – as you suggest – then by your own argument a bus must be equally or more dangerous. But what do I know, being out of my depth?

  15. My child is the only one in his school to use a bike to go there, and has been since he went to nursery. He’s 5.5 yrs old.

    He’s been riding on the street with either my wife or myself alongside on our bikes. I am more worried about him passing parked cars too close (in case of someone opening his door) than local traffic. Where traffic levels are too high, he uses the pavement.

    The problem is that the infrastructure is just not planned for bikes. Car drivers are not worse or better than a lot of cyclists, it is just that roads are not very biker friendly.

    I have personally never felt threatened on a bike, and I would suggest that if you are, you would be better staying home.

    As for criticizing Boris for opening up with his car on the M3, since when are cycles allowed on motorways ?

  16. PaulD, it’s a mistake to dwell on your argument that buses have high fronts (as well as SUVs). You might as well point out that a steamroller has a large drum on the front which could flatten people. …
    Buses have certain limitations in their shape due to the job they are designed to do: carry large numbers of people. One puts up with the odd bus-child collision since buses solve a problem that could not be solved any other way in urban environments. It’s called public transport. …
    PaulD: “Perhaps you could also tell us how many children in London are killed by SUVs”..
    I have no idea, but I do know it’s a numbers game; the more SUVs are driving around London, the more children will be hit by them. Perhaps you could take your supercilious questions to a parent of a child injured by a SUV.

  17. Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for London Mayor, said: “In effect, the mayor has just given the green light for richer people to buy smaller cars and enter the zone for free while families who struggle with one big car are left feeling the pinch.”

    Presumably this family struggling with one big car, let’s call them the Bradys, would have long since sorted out free bus travel for the kids and monthly Oystercards.

  18. Benjon, you come up with an interesting theory; I am only asking for some evidence to support it. If that is “supercilious” it says as much about the theory as it does about the theorist.

    And before I “take my supercilious questions to a parent of a child injured by a SUV (when they would have suffered only a glancing blow if the vehicle involved had been a car – remember that bit?” perhaps you would be kind enough to find me one.

  19. OK Benjon, let me save you the trouble. Here is a report from the BMJ which backs your claim:

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/331/7520/787?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=off-road&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

    SUV bonnets are higher than those of cars and this
    results in a more severe primary impact on the critical
    central body regions of the upper leg and pelvis

    Accepted: In theory SUVs may lead to more serious injury in a pedestrian collision. But how big an issue is it in practice, and specifically in London?

    I came to this report via the Which? website, which carries a taster… “Off-road cars pose deadly threat” … “All 4x4s should come with a health warning to alert buyers to the deadly threat these cars pose to pedestrians”…”The increased use of the lethal cars …”

    This kind of language is absurd. Like so much safety-talk, it’s designed to whip up hysteria and create hate-objects out of normal activity. Lethal cars? Every car is potentially lethal. Getting out of bed can be lethal.

    And note what Which? car expert David Evans says in the same article: “The Honda CR-V is proof that even off-roaders can be more pedestrian friendly, with the right design.”

    My point is that Ken is not coming clean in his rush to ban, or at least punish, drivers of perfectly legal vehicles. First it was congestion; that has failed. Now it’s CO2 emissions, an argument based on dodgy science from a man who now wants to pepper London with CO2-belching rubbish and biomass incinerators.

    The enemy in cities like London is not CO2 but diesel particulates, on which modern 4x4s have no bearing.

    It nothing less than class war, and you know it. Having turned 4x4s into objects of hate and derision – playthings of the the better-off – he is now trading on the envy vote. The man is a worm. (No, I don’t drive a 4×4).

  20. Benjon, I think someone needs to pull you up on your comments, because you probably cannot see the faults with your reasoning from atop your high horse.

    To criticise cars for the fact they are hard, fast-moving objects that occasionally cause death is disingeneous. You seem to think that their potential for causing injury cancels out all their benefits. If you only consider the cons, then even the most worthwhile enterprises will appear unattractive. Take kissing, for instance. If you only focused on its potential for spreading disease, then it would seem pointless. Eating is the same. If you only considered the choking/poisoning/obesity risks instead of its pleasurable and nutritional qualities, you’d probably starve to death.

    Thankfully, most people also consider the benefits when deciding if something is worthwhile. Unless of course, they have had terrible first-hand experience of something, in which case their opinion is likely to be badly biased and, therefore, unreliable. Which is why your comment “Perhaps you could take your supercilious questions to a parent of a child injured by a SUV” is completely disingenuous.

    Of course, most sane adults would concede that cars have considerable advantages. Yes, including being able to drive them at speed from time to time. But then you and your like-minded friends know this, which is why the ‘think of the children’ argument is always unfurled at times like these, since they are not legally automonous, and can be used as a stick to beat the people whose lives you disapprove of.

    You and I know that cars could be made of marshmallow and creep along at 5 miles-per-hour and you still wouldn’t like them. To you, they are clearly ostentatious symbols of wealth and arrogance, with 4x4s the worst offenders of all. The contemporary belief that they despoil the planet helps justify your feelings, but the contempt would be there with or without it, I suspect.

    There seems to be something about bold, unapologetic exhibitions of power or success that riles some people. Perhaps it’s just envy, or maybe they’re like some insecure child that shrivels inside when the big boys enter the room. Either way, it seems churlish for them to demonise the bold and successful. After all, they are the ones responsible for pushing the boundaries, inventing science, medicine, engineering (including your blesses bicycles), economics and space travel. As far as I can tell, all the meek have ever done is sit on the sidelines bitching. Oh yes, and they invented the Health and Safety Executive.

  21. Well said, Tayles. Another thought for you, Benjon – from Motorcycle News (shortened):

    Ken Livingstone could be causing injuries and deaths by suppressing findings which could dramatically cut road casualties, Tory MPs are set to tell Parliament.

    They say Ken Livingstone is to blame for failing to cut casualties because he has hidden research on the effects of letting motorcycles use bus lanes. A leaked report on a three-year pilot states collisions fell by 42% on routes where motorcycles were allowed to share the lanes.

    … Livingstone fears opening more bus lanes to motorcycles will cost him the pro-cycling ‘green vote’ in May’s Mayoral election.

    Roger Evans, Chair of the Transport Committee on the London Assembly, said: “I wish I could say this was shocking but sadly this is all too typical of the way the Mayor and his team operate.

    “Any evidence that contradicts their pre-determined viewpoint is ignored or distorted. In this case, Transport for London decided that they did not want motorcyclists to use bus lanes so when this report showed that their doing so would reduce accidents, pedestrian casualties and collisions between motorcyclists and cyclists, they buried it and ordered that it be substantially rewritten.”

    So here, apparently, we have Ken rubbishing a measure that would eliminate an identifiable and quantifiable number of injuries, at no cost or inconvenience to anyone, for political expediency.

    http://www.motorcyclenews.com/MCN/News/newsresults/mcn/2008/February-1-3/11-17/feb1208kenlivingstonecostinglives/?R=EPI-98535

  22. paulD:”And before I “take my supercilious questions to a parent of a child injured by a SUV (when they would have suffered only a glancing blow if the vehicle involved had been a car – remember that bit?” perhaps you would be kind enough to find me one.”
    Are you so statistically naive that you don’t acknowledge that if more people drive SUVs then more children will be hit by them? You often seem to accuse posters of “playing with your words” or similar, but it’s really not necessary to play with them.
    Tayles: “To criticise cars for the fact they are hard, fast-moving objects that occasionally cause death is disingeneous.”
    which is why I haven’t done it. I’ve criticised a selfish choice of car.
    By the way, at no point have I mentioned CO2 or “despoiling the planet”. Only you and paulD have done that. That’s because you hear only the green froth on the whole debate: you lack depth of knowledge in this area.

  23. “I’ve criticised a selfish choice of car.” – benjon

    So presumably, if SUVs could some how alter their design to be less dangerous your objections to them would simply melt away? Didn’t think so.

    Incidentally, why has everyone started calling 4x4s SUVs? Could it be that their detractors are riding on the coat tails of the American anti-4×4 campaigns, who have turned SUV into a dirty acronym?

    Perhaps there is something marginally more dangerous about the design of 4x4s, but being hit by a car is not going to be rendered harmless by banning high-fronted cars. As Paul pointed out, there are plenty of other vehicles – buses, trucks, vans, ambulances – that are high-fronted and equally lethal, if not more so. No one is in uproar about them.

    Yes, but their size is functional, I hear you cry, whereas people CHOOSE to buy a 4×4. True enough, but the fact that no one NEEDS to drive a 4×4 is surely pointless. I don’t need to do a lot of things, but I find it life-enriching to do so – which is fine as long as those things don’t pose a serious and unacceptable danger to others. Putting spinning blades on the front of my car would be daft, but buying a car that just happens to be bigger than most is not reckless or selfish.

    Increasingly, the accusation of selfishness is used as a stick to beat back anyone trying to better themselves. In fact, anyone whose life isn’t one long exercise in self-denial and self-flagellation can expect to feel the wrath of the failed and the resentful.

    But never mind my distaste for risk-averse idiots, here’s what Chris Patience, head of technical policy at AA had to say about 4x4s: “There is no shared characteristic of 4x4s that make them any more or less aggressive towards pedestrians compared to a normal car.” Patience even claims that 4x4s might be less harmful to pedestrians when there is a collision. “Typically, pedestrians hit by cars wrap around the front of the car and their head hits the bonnet”, he says, and because 4x4s tend to have more space between the bonnet and the engine beneath it, they create something of a “crumple-zone for the head”.

  24. Are you so statistically naive…(Benjon)

    Benjon, the whole of my last post was about the importance of robust statistics. It is getting very difficult to hold a sensible conversation when you spend so much of your time criticising other people’s “lack of knowledge” while failing to show your own.

    Of course I understand that greater exposure to danger will theoretically result in more accidents. My question was why you are making such a meal of SUVs with no proper evidence to back your case (the only evidence actually provided by myself, for which you haven’t said thanks), while apparently supporting a Mayor who ignores measures that would demonstrably reduce accidents. This led me to examine his motives, hence the reference to CO2. And it’s clear this is one big political game.

    What I find most objectionable is the pleasure which people like Ken Livingstone seem to get from micro-managing our tastes and habits. This car goes free.. that one is £6, this one £8, that one £25… How much for a yellow one these days?

    And now we have the prospect of a CO2 charge (is that on top of, or instead of, the congestion charge? – no one seems to know) with a jungle of rules, exemptions, discounts and penalties.

    What goes on here? Drivers of bigger vehicles already pay a CO2 charge at the petrol pump. What, in the end, will it achieve? Will the massive upheaval, the running costs, the vehicle databases and the threatened lawsuits from car manufacturers, have been worth it? I very much doubt it.

    If the congestion charge is what the tin says, a single flat rate with justifiable exemptions is a perfectly fair method. But of course that would neither create hundreds more pointless jobs nor satisfy Ken’s political ambitions.

    As for the proposed 100% exemption for – take a breath – cars that produce less than 120g/km CO2 and meet the Euro 4 standard for air pollution emissions or produce no more than 120g/km of CO2 and appear on the PowerShift register (got that?), what incentive is there left for the introduction of truly non-polluting vehicles like electic cars?

    I sometimes wonder if Ken and his ilk will be happy only when they see us driving around in a government approved, Trabant-style “people’s car”.

  25. “To you, they are clearly ostentatious symbols of wealth and arrogance, with 4×4s the worst offenders of all. The contemporary belief that they despoil the planet helps justify your feelings, but the contempt would be there with or without it, I suspect.”

    I am enlightened with your comments, Tayle s, and agree fully. I would only appreciate more the symbols of wealth, such as electricity and central heating if they work when we are in need of them – such as you need electricity when you wake up 4 am to study !

    I also agree very much with Chris’s suggestions !!!

  26. In 2004, the UK road accident death rate for children aged 14or under, at 1.3 per 100,000 population, was one of the lowest in Europe. Luxembourg had the lowest recorded rate, at less than 0.1 pe r 100,000 population, while Poland had the highest at 3.6 per 100,000 population.
    • Bus and coach fares rose by 168 per cent between 1997 and
    2006 in the UK, compared with a rise in the ‘All items’ retail prices index of 93 per cent.

    Source: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/st0407.pdf

  27. What a refreshing change to see that someone views powered two wheelers as an answer to congestion rather than the anti TPW stance. Well done Boris.

    John

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