Cycling is good good for us, a greener alternative for the daily commute, far cheaper than owning and maintaining a car and it also provides a handy alternative to all that commuter traffic you can find yourself stuck in on a daily basis.
That’s where the perks can end, because the reality behind cycling in some of the UK’s cities is a grim one. Cycling can go from being a leisurely activity, means of transport and cardio workout to a high risk activity in one fell swoop, with aggressive drivers, dodgy junctions and busy roads all translating to an increasing number of fatalities and deaths on the roads.
With 2012 seeing a five-year high in the number of cyclists deaths alone, with 122 killed on the road—106 of which were a result of a collision with a motor vehicle— the danger of cycling in some of the UK’s cities is one that needs to be addressed.
So for those of us already out there or simply considering taking the plunge, how bad are the cities we live in for cycling and which are the most dangerous of all?
It probably won’t come as a surprise for anyone that’s ever hit the roads in London that England’s capital consistently hits the lists as one of the worst cities in the UK to cycle in.
In the space of only two weeks in 2013, two cyclists were killed on the roads, both as a result of collisions with HGVs. This isn’t an uncommon story: in 2009, eight of the cyclists killed were involved in such accidents.
As any London-based cyclist will tell you, lorries can pose the greatest threats to cyclists, with many people claiming they just don’t have a place on the congested city roads. Get rid of the HGVs and make the cities a safer place for cyclists.
2. Brighton and Hove
What might come as more of a surprise is the South East’s place on the polls, replacing London as the highest-ranking area for accidents in 2011. Brighton and Hove is consistently named as one of the worst cities, with 157 cyclists killed in one year alone, often down to poor road design and busy junctions.
3. Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester
Busy junctions are are confusing enough to navigate if you’re in a car, let alone on a bike. In fact, 75% of all accidents occur at or on junctions, which is exactly why these three British come third most expensive ones. are also all name checked as some of the worst UK cities for cyclists, with dangerous junctions making the roads hazardous for those on two wheels.
4. Bradford is the worst cycling city in England
But with few bike shops, low numbers of bicycling club members and a limited amount of cycle routes that are free from road traffic, it’s actually Bradford that is listed as the UK’s worst city for cycling – just worst, not dangerous.
Of course, it shouldn’t be this way and it wouldn’t take too much to make the roads a safer place for everyone. By introducing separate cycle lanes, with wider lanes properly segregated from the roads, banning large HGVs from urban areas and redesigning some of the worst of the road layouts, cycling in the cities would soon become a much less hazardous activity.
The more cyclist on the road, the safer it becomes for everyone But it’s not all bad news and if you’re considering swapping public transport for a bike, don’t be discouraged. Strictures and schemes have already been put in place by a number of some of the worst cities (with cycle highways in London and Brighton being introduced in some of the most dangerous areas) and studies consistently show that the more cyclists on the road, the safer it becomes for everyone, which is another incentive to get out there.
And it needn’t even be all that expensive. For beginners, kit yourself out with a Argos bike and you’re good to go (just make sure you also get your safety gear sorted, of course).
And if the roads are proving too intimidating, there are always alternatives to urban cycling that will still let you enjoy the activity with less of a risk. Why not get started in by cycling in parks and in the countryside, away from road traffic, to build up your confidence until you’re ready to take it a step further.
So while we may still have a little way to go to make our cities safer for cyclists, there’s no reason not to get out on our bikes and ride right now. After all, there’s safety in numbers, so the more of us out there at it can only mean more cycle-friendly cities.