I don't think I've ever seen the word "tiro" used in a sentence ever before, but otherwise everything in this 1982 BMJ — or British Medical Journal as it then was, in the days before we invented acronyms — editorial is familiar. Cycling is booming, central government is "encouraging" local authorities, there's a 3ft Please campaign, and a stream of "vapid consultations" in place of actually doing anything…Points: Give cyclists room to move
FN Leach, HM Rhoden, R Caplan, and RGH Wade. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1982 July 31; 285(6338): 381. (PMC archive)
A whole new group of people discovered some of the joys of cycling during last week's tube and rail strike when they borrowed or resurrected old bikes in desperate attempts to get to work. They discovered only some of the joys because instead of pedalling along cheerfully in the sun they had to spend much of their time squeezing through rows of stationary cars. If local authorities and the Government had seen fit to provide cycle routes, lanes, and crossing places, then these tiro cyclists could well have reached work more quickly than usual, feeling brighter, and with saved pounds in their pockets.
Fear of being injured is the main factor stopping more people cycling to work, and they are right to be worried by this. The latest figures show that all accidents to cyclists were up by 6% in the third quarter of 1981 (compared with the third quarter of 1980) and deaths were up by 10% to 85. These figures deceive to a large extent as there is no good denominator (though the Department of Transport's rough figures suggest that cycle traffic was up by 700 in the same time) and many of the accidents are to those under 15 (100 of the 303 cyclists killed in 1980 were 15 or under). But cycling to work through Central London is still much more dangerous than flying to Los Angeles.
Although advertising campaigns urging motorists to "steer clear of bikes" and telling cyclists to ensure that they can be seen may help, the only way to cut cycling casualties down to almost nothing is to keep, cyclists apart from motorists. Milton Keynes has -60 miles of cycle lanes (soon to be 200) and Peterborough has 20 miles, but most local authorities in Britain are doing very little to help cyclists. The Government is encouraging them to do more, but thousands of miles of cycle lanes are what we need. Alternatively, as an article in New Society several years ago showed,' by closing minor back streets to motor-cars, it is possible to provide through routes even in cities such as London.
Traditionally, a government has always had two main duties towards its citizens: to safeguard their health and to maintain the law. To these, a third should now be added: ensuring the freedom to travel reasonable distances for work or play. The recurrent transport disputes have shown how much the average inhabitant of our cities is at the mercy of any disaffected group of workers. Cycling has the benefits of a personal form of transport that is cheap, non-polluting, non-selfish, and efficient for distances of up to eight miles. The Government should stop its delaying tactics, with its stream of vapid consultative documents, and act to ensure that its citizens can travel safely and freely without hindrance by others.