Open letter to Lagan Valley MLAs

To whom it may concern,

Last week I read through the 2011 PSNI Annual Report on road traffic injuries. Rather worryingly the number of injuries and deaths to “pedal cyclists” has increased dramatically from 2010 to 2011. Last year 255 casualties were reported, against 214 the year before, an increase of 20%. The baseline average for the years previous is 181. Lisburn policing district is also the most dangerous place for any form of traffic, with most Road Traffic Collisions being reported there.

Further analysis by NIGreenways has revealed that the rise in casualties
cannot be solely attributed to an increased uptake in cycling. One would expect the absolute numbers of casualties to increase in line with increased uptake. Ideally, the number of casualties should decrease as increased numbers of cyclists forces drivers to be more careful (critical mass). However, local statistics suggest that the casualties per person, per mile have also increased. The conclusion is that cycling in the past few years has become more dangerous in Northern Ireland.

This worrying trend needs to be addressed urgently. There are people’s lives at stake.

I am a dad of two. I take my daughter to school on my bike and continue to my place of work also on my bicycle. I am committed to a healthy, low-impact lifestyle, but I fear that my cycling puts me in increased danger, and the impact on me will be fatal. On my ~5 mile school run and commute (from Edenderry at the edge of Lagan Valley constituency to Belfast City Hospital, by way of Cranmore IPS in Finaghy) I encounter no dedicated cycle lanes, having to share with pedestrians or buses, taxis and motorcycles.

Advanced stop lines, put there to protect cyclists, are routinely ignored by drivers. Also lane restrictions during the morning rush hour are brazenly flouted by, especially, private hire vehicles and delivery vans. I have forwarded these (and other) images to the Police Service and I have publicized them, including license plate numbers, on social networks in an effort to name and shame.

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Northern Ireland seriously lags behind in providing for infrastructure for cyclists. The expenditure on cycling in the total Northern Ireland roads budget is 0.16%. Yet cycling makes up 1 to 3% of road traffic. While the NI Executive pays lip service to increasing cycling and other forms of sustainable transport, it is spending most to accommodate more private motor cars on our roads. The increase in casualties and the gap in funding cannot be a coincidence.

I want to urge you to ask the minister responsible for roads what he intends to do about the worrying upward trend in cyclists’ casualty rates; and what he intends to do to increase uptake of cycling.

I also want to ask you what you personally intend to do for cyclists in Lagan Valley.

I want to urge you to press the Executive that they should put their name to the Times Cyclesafe Manifesto (see below). The manifesto’s implementation should impact the casualty rate in a positive way.

The Times is committed to achieving its eight point manifesto calling for cities to be made fit for cyclists.

1. Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.

2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.

3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.

4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.

5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.

6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.

7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.

8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

I very much look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

 

Borghert Jan Borghmans

8 October,Trevor Lunn (All) responds:

“Speaking as someone who returned to cycling after a gap of around 40 years I have every sympathy with your views and I will do what I can to encourage the improvements you suggest. I was extremely surprised at how dangerous it has become, even allowing for the fact that in the 60’s we didn’t regard anything as dangerous!”

Update: 12/10/2012 Paul Givan MLA (DUP) responds saying he’s taking up my concerns with DRD. (They’ll explain to him what a bicycle is and bury him under a load of waffle.)
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