Sunday 28 June 2015

The problem with cycling to school

Linda from Sustrans, and the sweet jars
I don't find it easy to come up with fun activities to discuss safety on roads at a school fete.  Queensbridge, the school my eldest son goes to, had launched 'Family Safety week, Safer cycling' earlier this year, and I wanted to keep a high profile on issues raised, and test a bit, to see what people really thought; afterall, it's not that often parents and children are together in the school - parents evenings and school concerts are probably a worse time to find people to discuss road safety.

So I shared a table with Linda from Sustrans, had a pile of goodies and information from RoSPA, started a small survey (only three questions) and 'guess the sweets in the jar linked to road use statistics' fun activity.  Unfortunately Sustrans juicer bike was out of action, so had to rely on jars of sweets to draw people to the table - I got 54 people responding, and given the size of the school and event, and the attraction of bangra dancing and other things going on, I was pretty pleased.  So here's the results:

It wasn't surprising to find that most people either walked or drove to school.  What was perhaps more interesting was that nearly half the drivers would have prefered not to, and that nearly three times as many people who did actually bike to school would have liked to.

The results of the last question (and the quick voxpop interviews following the survey), explain this.  It was great to see that the majority of people (57%) felt very safe travelling to school. Most of these were the people who drove to school.  Of the others, all four people who felt they were 'not safe' were cyclists (most of all the cyclists).
A small sample, I know, but everyone in this survey who felt they were 'not safe' were cyclists, and most cyclists to Queensbridge felt unsafe - it seems pretty clear why there are so few cyclists, and that Birmingham City Council has a long way to change both the perception and reality of safety on the roads.

In the interviews cars and drivers were unsurprisingly seen as part of the problem.  However cyclists themselves were also seen as part of the problem by a significant number of people.  The Headteacher also identified 'the dilema' of cycling on pavements as a problem.  It's important to remember that over 50 people a year are killed just on pavements in the UK by motor vehicles. Collision with a bicycle accounts for less than 2% of injuries caused by vehicles on pavements - Cyclists and pedestirians are the victims - including the tragic death of Hope Fennell 200 metres from the Queensbridge school.  Cycling on pavements, while far from ideal, could be saving children from death and injury on our roads.

The problem to address local to Queensbridge, as it has been for many decades now, is to make our roads and pavements safer for our vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.

Useful links: