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Is cycling to work any safer now than it was 5+ years ago?

DonDaddyDDonDaddyD Posts: 12,689
edited June 2015 in Commuting chat
I've been riding to work since 2006 and I've commuted by bike to and from South East London, South West London, East London, West London, Essex and the City.

I look around at the ever increasing number of cyclist, cycle superhighways and routes, increasingly complex junctions, segregated lanes etc and I have to ask the question; Is cycling to work any safer or more enjoyable now than it was pre-cycle superhighway (5+ years ago)?

I think of my commute back then I have to say, no it isn't. Don't get me wrong, some measures have been great, many others are just ill thought out or excessive. Elephant & Castle for example, nothing was better than the double roundabout layout and any improvement since has made it worse for bicycle and vehicle alike.

Back when I first started cycling to work while anyone could jump on a bike and commute, to truly enjoy it and feel safe you very quickly learned the rules, unspoken etiquette, the roads and routes you just do not ride along (Blackfriars Bridge) and most importantly how to be assertive without being foolhardy. Cycling to work wasn't for everyone and seemed to appeal to those of a particular mindset.

Less cyclists, less vehicles/traffic and traffic calming measures, less complex junctions led to a much more direct and safer journey IMO.

The above however leads to a double edged sword as we are taught never to argue that having more people cycling to work is a good thing, and in part it is; it has has led to a yearly London Freeride, an ever growing selection of sportives, races, cycling groups (amateur and professional) et all and a booming (if not inflated priced cycling industry).

At the same time I see the same "us vs them" mantra, the ever present we need more infrastructure argument and the emergence of the camera crusader - all of which have been met with passion and vitriol in equal measure but certainly more than ever dished out 5+ years ago.

For me, I guess, while I acknowledge that cycling is clearly here to stay and we have achieved that we haven't actually achieved the goal of improving the activity.

Discuss.

Is cycling to work any safer now than it was 10 years ago? 49 votes

Yes
36% 18 votes
No
34% 17 votes
Other
28% 14 votes
Food Chain number = 4

A true scalp is not only overtaking someone but leaving them stopped at a set of lights. As you, who have clearly beaten the lights, pummels nothing but the open air ahead. ~ 'DondaddyD'. Player of the Unspoken Game

Posts

  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 12,697
    I didn't realise that I had a goal to achieve.

    Do I up my game, or give up?
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
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  • DonDaddyDDonDaddyD Posts: 12,689
    I didn't realise that I had a goal to achieve.

    Do I up my game, or give up?

    Almost every single one of us has recommended cycling to someone, we've given our thoughts on how to make the roads safer, we've said RIP to those unfortunate and we've given advice.

    And even if you'e managed to avoid all that. By simply being on a bike while riding to work, whether consciously or not, we've promoted cycling to work. And, unaware or not, as we ride our commutes our actions have been tracked by those who redesign junctions.

    We are part of the cycling community. So yes, there have been goals that have been achieved and others failed.
    Food Chain number = 4

    A true scalp is not only overtaking someone but leaving them stopped at a set of lights. As you, who have clearly beaten the lights, pummels nothing but the open air ahead. ~ 'DondaddyD'. Player of the Unspoken Game
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 50,109 Lives Here
    Traffic generally has increased and my commute takes about 5-10 minutes longer than it did 5 years ago.
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    Obviously some strange new meaning of the word "Goal".

    As far as I'm concerned, a goal is something you specifically try to achieve. When I get on my bike in the morning, my goal is to get to the office in a reasonable time, having done a bit of exercise along the way. That's about it. You may have other goals, you may want to change the World; those are your goals not mine.

    And what's the issue with Blackfriars Bridge? I ride over it every day, and I haven't even been slightly run over.

    As for Superhighways: The Embankment between Chelsea Bridge and Lambeth Bridge is definitely much nicer to ride along with CS8 in place.

    My commute is a little bit quicker than it was when I started. This is probably because I ride faster.
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  • rubertoerubertoe Posts: 3,994
    I started to commute to work in 2009, Just before the 2nd boom in cycling (the first being post 7/7).

    My commute hasnt really changed other than i just go a little bit further in a pretty straight line than I used to, my "goal" is to save a few quid (this doesnt work n+1 an' all that), keep a decentish level of fitness for a mid 30 something and not to get squished, this is the same now as it was then.

    True, i have been hit by cars more times than whan i was off the road (as a ped or a PT commuter) but even after coming to blows with large bits of metal i still consider it to be just as safe, than it was whenit is t i started, probably more so, due to increased numbers and awareness. True you still get choppers and shoot drivers, but you got them 5 years ago and they have only, IMO, increased proportionatly to the number of people driving and cycling.

    So no, my perception is that the level of safety remains the same (its never been wise to ride in the gutter, jump redlights, pass vehicles on the inside, sit in blind spots etc) its just it appears less so as the numbers of cyclists have risen and IMO those cyclists are probably a little bit less educated to the dangers.
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  • itsrobitsrob Posts: 95
    Answers seem to be london based!

    Funny this thread has come about I was thinking about it the other day.

    I first started commuting 6/7 years ago, and have returned probably a year ago.

    I've noticed big differences in that time and mainly positive. Ive seen lots of cars slowing when it could be dangerous to overtake, I've had lorry drivers being really really cautious and I've noticed myself waving / thumbs up to say thanks a lot more during the commute.
    It's very easy to stereotype... I would say my main incidents will have been with elderly drivers (probably find this when I'm in a car too that they can be in their own little world) and the odd bus (trying to hit specific timings?)

    So I would say an overwhelming northern yes
  • jedsterjedster Posts: 2,004
    I voted other because I just don't know.
    I know I am safer but that is just 10 years of experience benefitting my skills and awareness.
    I SUSPECT it is safer because numbers are up and I believe that strength in numbers works. That said, can I say that what I see on the roads everyday IS safer? Just not sure
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 4,323
    Answers seem to be london based!
    Yes, welcome to the commuting in london chat forum.

    I've been commuting for pretty much my entire adult life (25ish years) on and off. I've been in Scotland for the last decade and we are not experiencing such a cycling boom up here as would lead to superhighways and the like.

    But, I think I might perceive a very slight improvement in driving around cyclists. There seems to be slightly less overt aggression and absurd "must overtake to get to the traffic lights" impatience.

    It could be that I'm a better cyclist than I used to be in traffic. Or it could be that there are a few more of us around town during the week.
  • elbowlohelbowloh Posts: 2,221
    Yes and no.

    Yes, because driving behaviours have improved. They have had to improve due to the increased number of cyclists on the road.

    No, because of the increased number of cyclists on the road, and many of them don't know how to ride on the road, or they do, but choose to ride like twunts.
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  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 12,697
    I didn't realise that I had a goal to achieve.

    Do I up my game, or give up?

    Almost every single one of us has recommended cycling to someone, we've given our thoughts on how to make the roads safer, we've said RIP to those unfortunate and we've given advice.

    And even if you'e managed to avoid all that. By simply being on a bike while riding to work, whether consciously or not, we've promoted cycling to work. And, unaware or not, as we ride our commutes our actions have been tracked by those who redesign junctions.

    We are part of the cycling community. So yes, there have been goals that have been achieved and others failed.
    Where do I find out if I have been succeeding in meeting the goals?
    Or more importantly, if I have been failing.

    I do not wish to let the side down, and all that after all.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • DonDaddyDDonDaddyD Posts: 12,689
    I didn't realise that I had a goal to achieve.

    Do I up my game, or give up?

    Almost every single one of us has recommended cycling to someone, we've given our thoughts on how to make the roads safer, we've said RIP to those unfortunate and we've given advice.

    And even if you'e managed to avoid all that. By simply being on a bike while riding to work, whether consciously or not, we've promoted cycling to work. And, unaware or not, as we ride our commutes our actions have been tracked by those who redesign junctions.

    We are part of the cycling community. So yes, there have been goals that have been achieved and others failed.
    Where do I find out if I have been succeeding in meeting the goals?
    Or more importantly, if I have been failing.

    I do not wish to let the side down, and all that after all.
    :roll: I'm sorry that you find the use of my word "goal" so troubling. Still, you had a choice, answer the question and contribute to the thread in a constructive way or be a censored . You made your decision and I hope you are happy with it.
    Food Chain number = 4

    A true scalp is not only overtaking someone but leaving them stopped at a set of lights. As you, who have clearly beaten the lights, pummels nothing but the open air ahead. ~ 'DondaddyD'. Player of the Unspoken Game
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 4,323
    No, because of the increased number of cyclists on the road, and many of them don't know how to ride on the road, or they do, but choose to ride like twunts.
    Much as I dislike overtaking the same nodder three or four times, do they really represent a safety hazard? By far the worst I've ever experienced from a nodder was somone running gently into the back of me, because he hadn't expected me to stop at a red light. It was irritating and I said some bad words, but it wasn't particularly dangerous.
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 4,323
    Almost every single one of us has recommended cycling to someone, we've given our thoughts on how to make the roads safer, we've said RIP to those unfortunate and we've given advice.
    [/quote]
    I suppose I'm not really the most objective any more, but I don't like recommending cycling, to work at least, to anyone. I tend to say that if I had my time over, I'd get into mountian biking but not road cycling. Unfortunately I suck at mountain biking.

    Why? Well, I honestly don't know how I'd begin to explain to a newbie how to deal with traffic. Hell, if I wasn't a strong cyclist on a fairly quick bike, I'm not sure I could myself.
  • DonDaddyDDonDaddyD Posts: 12,689
    Almost every single one of us has recommended cycling to someone, we've given our thoughts on how to make the roads safer, we've said RIP to those unfortunate and we've given advice.
    I suppose I'm not really the most objective any more, but I don't like recommending cycling, to work at least, to anyone. I tend to say that if I had my time over, I'd get into mountian biking but not road cycling. Unfortunately I suck at mountain biking.

    Why? Well, I honestly don't know how I'd begin to explain to a newbie how to deal with traffic. Hell, if I wasn't a strong cyclist on a fairly quick bike, I'm not sure I could myself.[/quote]
    I see it like giving advice to someone learning to drive or a new driver.

    I get what you mean about "how you deal with traffic", I guess I don't try and tell them everything, just the important bits, like looking over their shoulder, not riding in the gutter and things like that. I genuinely like seeing people out on bikes and having confidence while cycling, I enjoy encouraging that.
    Food Chain number = 4

    A true scalp is not only overtaking someone but leaving them stopped at a set of lights. As you, who have clearly beaten the lights, pummels nothing but the open air ahead. ~ 'DondaddyD'. Player of the Unspoken Game
  • BikequinBikequin Posts: 402
    No, because of the increased number of cyclists on the road, and many of them don't know how to ride on the road, or they do, but choose to ride like twunts.
    Much as I dislike overtaking the same nodder three or four times, do they really represent a safety hazard? By far the worst I've ever experienced from a nodder was somone running gently into the back of me, because he hadn't expected me to stop at a red light. It was irritating and I said some bad words, but it wasn't particularly dangerous.

    There are quite a few spots in London that I can think of where the number of cyclists can cause a problem, one in particular being at Vauxhall Bridge going East to West in the evenings - too many cyclists means someone always gets forced out into the road from the CS7 and at the same time the road goes from 2 lanes to 1.

    You also have numerous spots where people will pull out to overtake another cyclist without checking their shoulder.
    You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quin.
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    By simply being on a bike while riding to work, whether consciously or not, we've promoted cycling to work.

    I'm fairly sure the sight of me in lycra, sweating and with the added benefit of hayfever making my face red and blotchy, I have put off far more people than I have encouraged to cycle to work.

    As for if it is safer or not? I have been commuting for about 5 years and as I don't work in London and the biggest town I encounter is Solihull it is exactly as it was. I like my commute!
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  • DonDaddyDDonDaddyD Posts: 12,689
    By simply being on a bike while riding to work, whether consciously or not, we've promoted cycling to work.

    I'm fairly sure the sight of me in lycra, sweating and with the added benefit of hayfever making my face red and blotchy, I have put off far more people than I have encouraged to cycle to work.

    I'm sure Contador (for example) while climbing some godforsaken mountain is thinking the same thing, but to us (or me, just me) he looks like an athletic god. So I buy the lycra, the bike, the wraparound shades and who knows, to someone else I look cool so they buy a bike and gear and do their take on it.

    Cycling appeals - sweat is attractive.
    As for if it is safer or not? I have been commuting for about 5 years and as I don't work in London and the biggest town I encounter is Solihull it is exactly as it was. I like my commute!
    Glad to hear it!


    I do find that in The Weald (Kent) they often give as much room as reasonably possible, but also it seems that owning a dog is the most popular thing followed by riding a bike.
    Food Chain number = 4

    A true scalp is not only overtaking someone but leaving them stopped at a set of lights. As you, who have clearly beaten the lights, pummels nothing but the open air ahead. ~ 'DondaddyD'. Player of the Unspoken Game
  • msmancuniamsmancunia Posts: 1,457
    I haven't noticed a jump in numbers of bike commuters in north Mcr - over the last five years I still don't see many (if any!) people on my commute; maybe it's a confidence thing. But, like itsrob and FirstAspect I have noticed a positive change in behaviour from a lot of motorists - cars, vans, lorries, buses etc. A lot more lorry drivers make sure they get eye contact, I'm given more space when I'm overtaken, and people are generally more understanding. They haven't lost the knack of stopping in the ASZ though, although to be fair it's that long since they've been painted by the council that they are extremely hard to see sometimes.

    I have noticed an increase in the number of recreational cyclists though. I drove home from work last night (yeah, yeah, late board meeting I had to clear up after and then a "big shop") and saw maybe twenty - and in north Mcr cyclists are usually as rare as rocking horse s**t, so that was quite a pleasant surprise.
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  • SlipSpaceSlipSpace Posts: 46
    I've cycle commuted on and off for the last 15 years or so, been riding the roads for 30+ years I guess (i'm 39 btw) in and around Norwich. I also drive these same roads.

    Is it safer now? I don't know to be honest, maybe more and less safe, but it is certainly different.

    My commute generally takes me around the outskirts of the city, the rat runs, past several schools and generally car commute routes. I see traffic more and more being funneled down the main arterial roads in and out. These can be a bit hairy on occasions, if you're on the road people will pass you no matter how close they have to get or who is coming the other way. People drive closer to the car in front than ever. Cars are quicker so noone needs to read the road far ahead to keep momentum etc. There are cycle paths but these are usually shared with the path so yes, away from traffic, but you have to negotiate workers with earphones and smartphones or groups of kids with ...er...smartphones...(people walking and using smartphones are by far the most unpredictable of hazards imo) and stop at every side street.

    The flip side is that the rat runs are increasingly becoming closed to through traffic so make good cycling roads. There are more people on bikes though. Some maybe haven't ridden the road or why else would they go to their right when seeing me coming the other way, already on their right (my left), no regular road user would do that!!

    I feel I could keep running on but I'm no nearer an anwer.
  • rower63rower63 Posts: 1,991
    I started to commute to work in 2009, Just before the 2nd boom in cycling (the first being post 7/7).
    actually from my point of view 7/7 was the second cycling surge. The first was what caused me to start cycling as my main form of commute: the 1989 2-week tube, bus and train strikes. Look at any cycling-related graphs, either activity or accidents and you'll see a big data spike then.
    As for the "is it safer" question, my feeling is it's about the same. I find myself thinking "whoa, boy! cool it down, that was too close!" far less often now than I did, but I suspect that's more about my own riding behaviour than anything else :mrgreen:
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  • RhodrichRhodrich Posts: 870
    I first started cycling much of my present commuting route on a regular basis back in the early 90's. It wasn't a commute to work though, but a commute to school - 7 1/2 miles each way.

    Back then, the speed limit through Richmond Park was 30mph, and I was often the only cyclist going through there in the morning and the evening. Priory lane had no silly bike path on the pavement, but there was still just as much aggro between cars and cyclists on there. I had my first road rage incident there, with a Ford Fiesta that gave me a close pass before pulling up to the traffic lights. His window was down, so I asked him what the **** he thought he was doing, to which he replied that I should have been closer to the kerb. It was only then that I realised that it was my school PE teacher......

    So was the commute any safer? It was definitely quieter all round - fewer bikes, and fewer cars. But those cars acted in exactly the same way as they do now. In some ways, it was more dangerous, but that was partly my fault, as I was young and foolish. I smashed the back window of a car with my head when I was drafting it down Broomfield Hill, and a deer popped out from behind a tree. My 1970's Falcon 10 Speed had a steel rim at the front, which proved to be next to useless under emergency braking in the rain, when the car in front suddenly came to a halt. I also came off another time on black ice coming down Broomfield at a silly pace, sheering a pedal off my bike, and ripping my school uniform to shreds. Since then, I've always avoided the Broomfield descent on my commute.

    Cycling whilst in the school grounds also proved to be dangerous. I suffered concussion when someone kicked a football straight into my front wheel, and I went over the handlebars. I wasn't wearing a helmet, and if I had been, I'd probably be evangelising today about how a 'helmet saved my life'. The reality was that my skull did a pretty good job of protecting my brain, despite my seeing stars and chucking up following the incident. There was also the time when I was racing someone across the pitches in the semi darkness, and ended up cycling into a rope that had been strung across to protect a cricket wicket. The rope was invisible in the half light, and was at mouth level. Pulled my bottom lip back, and tore my mouth so much that I could poke my tongue right down into my chin, which was quite painful.

    In the context of all this, it's a wonder that I survived. These days, things are a lot less eventful.....
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  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 12,697
    :roll: I'm sorry that you find the use of my word "goal" so troubling. Still, you had a choice, answer the question and contribute to the thread in a constructive way or be a censored . You made your decision and I hope you are happy with it.
    I did answer the question.
    I did contribute to the thread.
    You asked us to discuss your OP, and I did.

    Don't get offensive if you don't like the comments directly relating to your post.

    I think it is safer now as drivers are more used to cyclists but there is a prevalence for holier than thou cyclists being a total pain, especially if you happen not to be wearing a helmet.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • bobbyglossbobbygloss Posts: 314
    For me, cycling to work now is less safe in terms of personal injury. I used to ride on a fast dual carriageway (A96 from Inverurie towards Aberdeen), followed by equally fast but more twisty minor roads. Lots of scary moments, but I was never knocked off. Now I see more slower cars, pedestrians and bikes, but I fall off much more on tree roots and rocks, and on ice.
    This may have missed the point of the OP.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,747
    Not a London commuter, but I'll post in here anyway, I think generally the traffic is more aware than it was 5/6 years ago, we definitely have more cycling commuters at work now, when I started I was the only regular and we had 3 or 4 occasionals, now we have at least 6 regulars and the company is even considering a fiscal incentive as longer term it will save on the cost of providing car parking spaces.

    Ironically a recent small change to a junction has made my commute slightly less safe, I have a long uphill stretch (at circa 13-15mph) to a junction, when there was a crossroads (at the crest of that hill) with traffic lights the cars would wait and then pass me when the opposing traffic was stopped at the lights, they've made it a roundabout now which means the opposing traffic doesn't have the breaks in it and the passing traffic is forced to perform an overtake on quite a narrow (they can't pass me on our side of the road) and busy road.
  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,690
    I started cycling after 7/7 as that was my normal train route but for the fact I'd been out on the town the night before and was in bed at home.

    What I've noticed is generally better acceptance from everyday London traffic ie taxi buses etc but much much worse from occasional traffic like drivers and construction in fact the amount of construction traffic now is insane.

    If you can be arsed search for the BR interview they didn't with a few of us at the morpeth which of course myself and the OP featured in.

    In fact come to think of it even Addison Lee are better these days.
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  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,147
    deaths be that uk or just london is a small number and has for many years been stable at between 104/118 for uk. London is broadly the same with last time i looked a average of 15 deaths in both cases being low numbers, they can (and do) have massive increases percent wise. though lorries do seem to make up half of that can't help feeling that is some low hanging fruit.

    Injuries is rather less rosey in that there is a fair old increase which is closely matched but not wholly by the increase in cyclists.

    data here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/438040/reported-road-casualties-in-great-britain-main-results-2014-release.pdf

    central London does have a lot of lorries, and clearly is busy but is it more dangerous? perception and actual risks aren't necessarily the same.

    Do I worry myself? no but then my commute is almost entirely this.

    https://youtu.be/1HxDed7nPys

    yes that's taken one handed and is shaky!

    mind you sometimes stuff happens I was found by V68 and others not far from that video in Bushy Park with a fractured skull, Bleeds on the brain (subdural and a epidural haematoma) which has changed me, you don't walk away from damage to the brain, even minor ones (as mine is) unchanged.

    nothing is totally safe, and perception and real risk can differ.

    I'm always fairly horrified at the filtering by some cyclists which often seems high risk/low gain
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    5 years ago I was not very safe.

    On the whole drivers are more aware and infrastructure has improved in parts. CS8 and Brentford high street are both improved sections of my ride. There are also a lot more cyclists but the biggest improvements in safety have likely come from my own ability.

    Incidents or near misses that were once almost daily are now rare occurrences. You could contribute that to better riding, improved conditions or both.
  • imatfaalimatfaal Posts: 2,716
    Some measure taken to protect cyclists (whether the motive was honourable or just propaganda) have been very good; I love the segregated bicycle lanes through Stratford - I admit that I thought the idea of bus-stops traffic-side of the cycle lane was completely nuts but it works. Other schemes are just added danger: the Bow Roundabout scheme which is a continuation of the Stratford High Street lane is simply hazardous and much worse than filtering over to the right and going over the Bow Flyover - but both routes are pretty scary.

    I think there has been an improvement in driving skills and appreciation of other road users; I do the Lower Thames Street contra-flow Eastbound at rush hour every night and now I regularly make eyecontact via the wingmirror with the construction lorry drivers. These "betes noires" of cyclists are now - in the main - checking their mirrors compulsively . There are still idiots on bicycles who will get themselves killed AND there are idiots in lorries who will kill other road users - but I think we are getting better.
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