Cycling: safety - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 02 May 2012 | Standard notes SN02254

Amended 23 October 2012

Authors: Louise Butcher

Topic: Cycling

This note sets out the policies of successive governments to deal with the safety issues associated with cycling; initiatives to improve cycle safety in London and campaigns by third parties to improve safety generally and to mandate the wearing of cycle helmets.

As more people have begun to cycle as part of their daily commute or simply for leisure, concerns have increased about the safety of cyclists, particularly those cycling in large cities and in particular in London. Successive governments have encouraged local authorities to adopt policies to make cycling safer, but these are ultimately for local authorities to decide upon, based on their individual priorities. London has trialled a number of schemes to improve cycle safety, including fitting trixi mirrors, training HGV drivers and improving road priority schemes.

There have been a number of campaigns in recent years to improve cyclists’ safety by reducing cyclists liability for accidents, introducing a ‘road user hierarchy’ enshrining the relative importance of cyclists compared to traffic, making the wearing of cycle helmets mandatory and introducing a power for local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences, including the illegal use of cycle lanes. The Times launched a manifesto for cycling in February 2012 and the issue has risen to prominence again with the 2012 campaign for London Mayor.

Motoring groups, while recognising the relative vulnerability of cyclists using the roads, particularly in cities, have called for a more responsible attitude on the part of cyclists to obey the law, particularly regarding running red lights, and to respect the priority of pedestrians on pavements. Cycling offences are dealt with in a separate note, SN623.

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