It is well known that 2017 saw the third successive year where Irish cycling fatalities have seen an increase.
Despite a reduction in fatalities across all other transport modes, pedal cyclist fatalities increased by 50% over those of 2016.
We don’t often get the chance to drill down further into these alarming figures but 2 lots of figures have come in to the Irish spotlight in the last week that clearly shine a light on the current position of cycling in Ireland.
The first one of these came from a poll carried out by The Journal.ie that asked a simple question.
Do you feel safe cycling on Irish roads?
It it got a massive response with over 10,400 people responding.
Only 10% of respondents voted that they cycle and feel safe.
It reveals a large proportion of would be cyclists (31%) who might cycle if it was safer along with 44% who cycle but don’t feel safe.
This covers a very large catchment of bicycle riders who may or may not take up cycling or indeed, continue to cycle depending on safety and perceptions of safety.
The second came from a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Tommy Broughan
— Tommy Broughan (@TommyBroughanTD) January 29, 2018
1,350 injuries for 2015 and 1,339 for 2016 is a lot of bicycle riders.
This equates to almost 4 people who ride bicycles being injured every day!
While the accuracy in gathering relevant collision data is questionable, it does serve as a huge wake up call to those who are promoting cycling without actively advocating for safety measures around the associated risks involved.
We as a society are rightly promoting cycling for many obvious reasons;
Transport, environmental, congestion and of course health.
We try all sorts of ploys to get more people active and using their bicycles.
The latest one came recently with a government initiative
Of course whilst, such initiatives are most welcome, they are greatly putting the cart before the horse when it comes to safe cycling.
From overseas experience, we know that this comes mainly in the guise of well thought out dedicated, protected cycling routes.
When we drill down though into our 2017 cycling fatalities, 11 of the 15 pedal cyclists who died on our roads, were killed in rural situations, some of which will most probably never see anything close to a cycle superhighway.
This is is why we are at a vital crossroads and the need for a cyclist specific minimum passing distance law is now crucial.
You might be reading all this and wondering what all the fuss is about.
Indeed it’s not so long ago where our 2016 Census was highlighting the much lauded increase in those cycling to work.
However, we have been here before;
Since Census 2016 published the report on commuting in June, there has been much hype and spin in the media about increases in cycling.
However, the emphasis on a much lauded increase of 42% in cycling to work hides the fact that we have been here before.
in 1986 for example, 146,962 people were cycling to work despite a much smaller population then.
In real terms we are probably looking at roughly double that of 2016.
History has a great habit of repeating itself and most certainly if we don’t nurture our current modest growth in cycling, we run the risk of it falling away just like what we witnessed during the 20 year period from 1986 – 2006.
This generation has already left a huge burden of debt on future generations with the craziness that went on with our previous property market bubble.
We are now doing so again by not making cycling as attractive as we should.
The future health bill alone for not acting now will be felt in the coffers of current and future tax-payers for a long time yet..
Associated transport related carbon taxes will be another such preventable cost not to mention the actual cost of traffic congestion.
Let’s start the ball rolling by passing a cyclist specific minimum passing distance law and move on to other more important areas of cyclist safety.