Tuesday, 11 August 2009

From the Cycle Touring Club (CTC)

There are always some people who aren’t very sympathetic to cycling. Normally they’ve got preconceived notions of what cycling is, what cyclists are like or what cyclists should do.

Q1: Cycling’s dangerous, isn’t it?
Among men the level of obesity has increased by 39% in the last 10 years
At current trajectories 6 out of 10 people will be obese by 2050, costing £49 bn
per year
Obesity and diabetes are linked to heart disease and strokes
A third of people die from an illness related to physical inactivity
Cycling is one of the easiest ways of introducing exercise to the daily routine of
people who aren’t regularly physically active
Since 2000 cycling in London has increased by 91% and the number of cyclists
injured has dropped by 33% since the mid-1990s
75% collisions involving cyclists are caused by driver error so the real danger on
the roads comes from drivers

• The health benefits of cycling far outweigh its risks; not cycling is far more
Road safety:
• Cyclists gain from “safety in numbers” – the more people who cycle the safer it
becomes as drivers get increasingly used to looking out for cyclists and
sharing space safely with them
• Cyclists rarely cause injury to other road users

Q2: Wouldn’t cycling be safer if you wear a helmet? Shouldn’t it be made
o Cycle helmets standards require them to cater for an impact velocity of only 20
km/h (12.5 mph).
o Helmets are therefore not designed to withstand the sort of impact a cyclist might
suffer if they are hit by a speeding car
o The circumstances in which a cycle helmet is more likely to prevent or reduce
injury are low impact falls, e.g. if you fall off your bike all by yourself – something
that children may do. They may also help if you are hit by an overhead branch
when out mountain biking
o Compulsion laws in other countries have reduced the number of people who
o Several recent reports (including four papers in peer-reviewed medical journals)
have found no link between changes in helmet wearing rates and cyclists' safety
- and there are even cases where safety seems to have worsened as helmetwearing
increased. The loss of “safety in numbers” benefits is one of several
possible explanations for this.

o CTC thinks that it should be up to you to decide whether you want to wear a
helmet or not, and that it should be an informed choice.
o CTC actively opposes all proposals to making helmet-wearing compulsory, for
children as well as for adults
o Instead, CTC promotes the road safety measures that are most likely to benefit
cyclists, e.g. 20mph in urban streets; strong enforcement against bad driving; and
good cycle training

Helmets & Safety
• Cycle helmets won’t always prevent injury in all circumstances and people
should be aware of their limitations
• It is the behaviour of drivers that causes most problems for cyclists on the
roads, so tackling speed and poor driving standards would help cyclists a lot
more than widespread helmet wearing

Helmet Compulsion
• Compelling people to wear cycle helmets may reduce the numbers of people
willing to cycle, undermining its health, environmental and other benefits
• The more people who cycle, the safer cycling becomes, so reducing cycle use
risks undermining these “safety in numbers” benefits

Q3: Why can’t cyclists learn to ride safely and obey the law?
o Only a small proportion of illegal cycle use is straightforward “antisocial
behaviour”; most of it is people feeling forced to decide between what is safe and
what is legal, whilst some are unaware they are breaking the law at all.
o Illegal cycling causes very few serious injuries and fatalities are almost nonexistent
compared with the injuries caused by illegal car use, so the response
needs to be proportionate to the problem.
o We lobby for and promote the best ways to encourage cyclists, especially
teenagers, to ride safely and legally on the roads, i.e.:
- reduced speed limits on urban streets (20mph should be the norm except for
the widest and busiest main roads),
- enforcing road traffic law on all road users who create danger to others (this
will mostly affect bad drivers) and
- good cycle training, widely available for people of all ages.

Q4: Why don’t cyclists obey red lights?
o In London between 2001-05 (the most recent data we have), there were 3
cyclists, 7 pedestrians and 7 motor vehicle occupants killed when a motorist
jumped a red light. Two cyclists were killed by red light jumping (i.e. fewer than
the number of cyclists killed by red-light-jumping motor vehicles), while 7
motorcyclists got themselves killed the same way.
What’s CTC doing about it?
o Campaigning for best practice, cycle-friendly arrangements at junctions
o Promoting good cycle training
Red light jumping
• Jumping a red light on a bike is illegal and can be dangerous; jumping a red
light using a motor vehicle is just as illegal but causes a lot more death and
Illegal cycling
• It is not the job of CTC to justify illegal cycling. However before deciding how
to address the problem one needs to understand why it happens in the first
place and promote effective means for tackling it
• Things that make it impossible (or prohibitively costly) for children and
newcomers to take up cycling in the first place (e.g. registration, licences etc –
see Q6 below) risk seriously undermining its health, environmental and other

Q5 What are you going to do about cyclists riding on the pavement?
o There are about 40 pedestrians (almost one a week) killed annually in Britain by
motor vehicles on footways or verges (not to mention about 650 pedestrians
killed annually by motor vehicles on the road)
o By contrast an average of 0.3 pedestrians were killed in collisions with pavement
cyclists over the same period. There are similarly large discrepancies between
the numbers of pedestrians injured by cycles and motor vehicles on pavements,
whether in London or in Britain as a whole
Total pedestrian injuries (i.e. looking at all causes):
o In the years 2001-5 in London, there were 101 times as many pedestrians injured
– and 126 times as many seriously injured – in collisions with motor vehicles than
cyclists. Over these 5 years there were 534 pedestrians killed in collisions with
motor vehicles, and just 1 involving a cyclist
o No pedestrian has been killed in London in collision with a cyclist who was either
on the pavement or jumping a red light in any of the last ten years
What’s CTC doing about it?
o Promoting cycle training to give people the confidence and skills needed to cycle
o Urging engineers not to introduce shared-use pavements unless there is
absolutely nothing they can do to help cyclists on the road (e.g. by reducing
motor traffic volume and speed).
Pavement cycling
• CTC does not condone law-breaking or misbehaviour by cyclists and believes
that the road is usually the best place to cycle. However, we understand that
lack of confidence and skills mean that some people feel ‘safer’ on the
footway, particularly novices and children
• Figures show that cyclists very rarely cause injury to pedestrians on the
• The proliferation of legal shared use (a lot of it patchy and unnecessary), only
serves to confuse cyclists and pedestrians about the legalities of cycling on
the pavement.

Q6: Why don’t cyclists have compulsory training, number plates and
insurance to stop them riding dangerously and illegally, or so they can be
made to pay up when they do?
o CTC was instrumental in drawing up new “Bikeability” national cycle training
standard, and encourages all people to take it. Whereas conventional cycle
training merely taught young children to not fall off their bikes while riding round
bollards in a playground, “Bikeability” is about giving people of all ages (including
teenagers and adults) the skills to handle real traffic confidently, safely and
legally, and thus to cycle more safely more often
o The administrative costs of making registration and insurance compulsory would
be as large as for car use, since there are about as many cyclists and bicycles in
Britain as there are drivers and motor vehicles – the main difference is that more
of the cyclists are children
o The administrative costs would therefore be similar, and would have to be borne
either by tax-payers or by individuals, and the Government has rightly ruled out
both options. Making cyclists pay both for training and registration would
seriously deter occasional cycle use (e.g. family outings) or newcomers to cycling
(including children), thus undermining efforts to encourage more people to cycle
o There is no evidence that registration would provide any safety benefits – after
all, having number plates doesn’t stop large numbers of motorists from driving
illegally and dangerously
o We continue to promote Bikeability training
o We also encourage all regular cyclists to have third-party insurance – indeed we
provide £10m of 3rd party insurance cover for all CTC members.
Legislative control of cyclists
• CTC believes that good quality, readily available cycle training is the best way
of ensuring that cyclists obey the law and ride safely. It should not be made
compulsory because that would probably deter people from taking up cycling
• CTC thinks that registration and licencing schemes would be prohibitively
costly, unenforceable, impossible to administer and also act as a deterrent
• We don’t see any reason for treating cyclists differently from pedestrians
• CTC promotes the take-up of third party insurance and provides it for its

Q7: Shouldn’t cyclists stop slowing down traffic and stick to where they
belong – i.e. cycle paths/tracks off the road? Shouldn’t campaigners be
asking for more on-road cycle lanes and off-road paths because they make
cycling safer?
o The Highway Code states that cyclists do not have to use cycle facilities if
they do not wish to. CTC believes that the right of the cyclist to decide
whether or not to use a cycle path or lane should be maintained.
o Three-quarters of cyclists’ injuries occur at junctions. Both cycle paths/tracks
and lanes may put cyclists at even greater risk at these already risky points
because they can them more complex to negotiate (see below)
o Cycle paths/tracks
- Counter-intuitively, there is some evidence that cycle tracks are associated
with lower safety than others.
- Many cycle collisions occur where a cycle track crosses the mouth of a side
turning, or rejoins the main road. Whilst cyclists on the road retain priority,
those riding on the track are usually expected to stop and look for motor
traffic approaching from several angles and directions. Novices and children
may find this difficult and be placed at greater risk than they would be had
they cycled, with due priority, on the road. Equally, drivers may not be looking
for cyclists using an off-road path.
- Pedestrians and particularly people with sight impairments, tend to object to
sharing footways with cyclists
o Cycle lanes
- As long as they are of adequate width (1.5m min, 2.00m preferred) cycle
lanes may provide protection between junctions. They may make people feel
safer and encourage them to cycle more
- However, staying in a cycle lane means, once again, that you may be worse
off at junctions. This is because they take you out of the driver’s field of
attention, whilst also making it harder for the cyclist to see what is coming out
of a side road and to avoid being cut up by a driver overtaking then turning
left from behind
- An unacceptably narrow cycle lane (and there are many of them) might signal
to drivers that this is all the space a cyclist needs, thus encouraging them to
overtake too closely
What’s CTC doing about it?
Cycle paths/tracks v the road
• Cycle paths, especially those provided alongside a road, are not necessarily
safer than the road and there is no obligation to use them
• Cycles are vehicles and, as such, have every right to use the road
• Cyclists don’t slow down traffic – they are traffic!
Cycle lanes (lanes painted on the road)
• These are often not wide enough to help; and sometimes they are so narrow
that they cause more problems than they solve
CTC – the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation 7
o We advocate that engineers do everything possible to make the road itself
suitable for cycling first, before so much as considering cycle lanes or (last resort)
shared use paths
Q8: Cyclists don’t pay road tax, so you have no right to complain about the
roads or drivers, or to take up road-space, do you?!
o Almost all adult cyclists pay for the roads too as the money comes out of council
tax and income tax
o Cyclists who don’t drive still pay for the most expensive roads, i.e. motorways,
despite being banned from using them
o Nobody pays roads tax any more as it was abolished in the 1930s for fear that
drivers would think they “owned the road”. The argument that paying vehicle
taxes gives drivers prior use of the roads is like arguing that smokers should
have priority in hospitals because they pay for these out of cigarette taxes
o Both cyclists and pedestrians, who do minimal damage to the road surface, could
get by perfectly happy without all the money that gets spent on motorways and
trunk roads
o Campaigning to make sure that councils spend money for road maintenance in
ways that help cyclists as well as motorists

Q9: You’ll never get large numbers of people to cycle, will you?
o 43% of people aged 5 and over own a bicycle
o There are very high levels of recreational cycle use – it is the 3rd most commonly
undertaken form of physical activity in adults, after football and swimming, with
about 31% of Britain’s adult population cycling at least once a year (c18m
people), and about 15% (almost 9m people) cycling at least once a week
 Road tax
• Actually, most adult cyclists do pay for the roads, even though they impose minimal
wear and tear on them!
• There are no calls for pedestrians to start paying “road tax”, so why require it of
Getting lots of people to cycle
• Yes we will! There is huge potential for increased cycle use in Britain. Cycling is fun, fast,
flexible, free (well, almost), it keeps you fit, it avoids burning finite fuel reserves and is
friendly to the local and global environment. It is good for the health of individuals and that
of our communities and the environment. It’s the answer to lots of the problems we have
o Yet cycling is little used as a mode of transport in Britain, with less than 2% of
trips being made by cycle. This compares with 9% in Switzerland, 10% in
Germany and Belgium, 12% in Sweden, 18% in Denmark and 27% in Holland.
None of these countries have significantly different economies, car ownership
levels or weather, and Switzerland is a lot more hilly
o Over two thirds (68%) of all trips in Britain, and over half (58%) of car trips, are
under 5 miles, approximately a half hour cycle ride. Especially in larger towns
and cities, such journeys are often quicker by cycle than by any available
o 37% of adults in Britain agree that 'Many of the short journeys I now make by car
I could just as easily cycle, if I had a bike'
o Around 3 in 10 car users in Britain say they would reduce their car use 'if there
were more cycle tracks away from roads ' (31%), 'if there were more cycle lanes
on roads' (27%) or 'better parking facilities for cycles' (30%)
o Just over two-thirds (68%) of Britons agree that 'cyclists should be given more
priority', while only 11% felt that 'cycle lanes on roads simply reduce space'
What’s CTC doing about it?
o Everything we can…campaigning, Champions, training…you name it…

Q10: Our roads would be safer if there were no cyclists, wouldn’t they?
What’s CTC doing about it?
o Just being there…
No cyclists = safer roads?
• Around 3000 people die from road traffic collisions in the UK every year – only
about three of those involve only a cyclist and a pedestrian, the remainder all
involve motor vehicles.

The roads would be safer with no motor vehicles!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A ride to Scotland and back

Well after all the preparation rides (or not) I'd done this year, Last Saturday I found myself on a train towards Watford and a short cycle ride over to Cheshunt for the start of the London -Edinburgh - London 1400km audax ride.

I got there at about 10.30 in the morning ready for the my 12.30 registration and managed to get near the front of the queue. This was a good idea as the queues got longer and longer as other riders were trying to register early and the queues were still there 6hrs later.
An afternoon of talking to friends, looking at bikes and having a couple of drinks all added to the great atmosphere. Then it was off for a quick ride down the A10 to the Travelodge for a sleep before my 08.15 start on the Sunday.

All going well as I got to the start at about 07.00 and watched the 08.00 riders leave. Then it was line up ready for my departure.
Pic by Dave Larrington

Away in a reasonable group up through Cheshunt and into the rolling countryside of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire to the first control at Gamlingay.
I was going at my usual pace passing some people on the flat and getting passed by people on the uphill sections. The sun was out and it was a warm but nice day.
On around the left of Peterborough and up to a school in Thurlby I was starting to get a bit sore where my shorts were rubbing the top of my legs, not good as I was hardly 150kms into the ride.
After Thurlby the sky started to cloud over and it looked like it may start to rain.
Another stop at Washingborough just SE of Lincoln for more food and drink and by the time I left it was on with the jacket as it had started raining.

The next bit up to Thorne via Wragby was at a reasonable pace due to there being hardly any hills, there was a bit of a crosswind headwind in places but not too bad. I also managed to find a shop and get some cream for my leg/short interface and stood at the side of the road applying it. It must have looked odd and was probably lucky I wasn't arrested as I stood next to a Coop with my hand down my shorts and a look of relief on my face!!
I reached Thorne at Midnight (320km in 16hrs) looked my bike to the fence and went to get more food.

On walking into the rugby club it resembled what a refugee camp must look like. Bodies everywhere sleeping on the floor, at tables, across chairs. All the beds were taken mainly due to people trying to stay out of the bad weather.
I got my card stamped, grabbed some food, changed clothes into some dry ones from my drop bag, found a blanket and some space on the floor in the corridor by the toilets.

I did manage to get some sleep and woke up fairly refreshed but had no clue what the time was.
I went out to find I'd had 3hrs got some breakfast and then spent 20 - 30 mins looking for my water bladder to refill.
I couldn't find it anywhere so resigned myself using just 1 water bottle and went outside to fill it. My bladder was still on my bike! D'oh!!

I was away for about 5 and the quiet roads around Doncaster were starting to get busy with the Monday morning rush hour.
I was still feeling tired and my shorts were still rubbing, I thought I had left some Sudocreme in my bag at Thorne but it turned out I had left it in the one at Dalkeith instead (muppet).

Onwards around York and towards the village of Coxwold. The hills started here and as I was climbing the hill through Crayke I turned left and the road went up again, bike came to a standstill and I got off and walked.

By the time I got to Coxwold my legs were starting to Blister where the shorts were rubbing and I decided to finish the ride there and then. I just didn't fancy another 1000km of it.
If I had gone any further I knew it would cost me more to get home on the train than it would from York.
I rang my brother up and rode back down through York and onto his place at Wetherby.
Total distance was 500km by the time I got there.

Cider was consumed and I spent a couple of days there as the price of train tickets went down from £75 to £25 if booked a day in advance.

By the other stories and write-ups from the people who completed the ride, the weather was atrocious with gail force winds, horizontal rain and hail in places. Great British summer weather!

Will I try it again in 4 years, I don't know. More training will be needed and definitely more longer rides in the months before the ride.
This year I didn't get out enough and what with mechanical failures, bad weather and the short problem also caused by sitting in a puddle of sweat on the new seat I fitted 2 days before the ride (now sorted).
I've also said I'll help with the driving side of the event when it's held again.

So what next?
This year I still have more rides planned and a 600km ride at the end of September to do.
Next year I will still be riding and will do as many as I can get in around work and family commitments.
2011 brings up the option of doing Paris - Brest - Paris 1300km ride. Do I want to go for that one. We'll see :-)