SOMETIMES I feel optimistic about Oxford’s cycling future, but sometimes despair.
Last week left me feeling angry and hopeless as I read about the heart-rending death of a 12-year-old boy out cycling with his friends on the A420.
Reading the news saddened me to the core. What a terrible tragedy, an adult’s loss of life is bad enough, but to read of a child in collision with a car is just appalling. Why didn’t he have somewhere safe to ride and why was he sharing what is a dangerous and busy stretch of Oxfordshire’s roads with cars?
I really hope the powers that be are thinking carefully about the future. Cyclists are not going away. Far from it.
We are steadily increasing in numbers and those numbers include children. Road design in the UK must be radically rethought for all users. You don’t leave pedestrians wandering in the same vicinity as cars or heavy goods vehicles, so why cyclists?
Because they travel five mph faster than those on foot or because creating segregated cycle lanes would mean less room for motorised traffic.
It really does interest me that as cars increased in popularity, pavements were improved at the same time for pedestrians.
Why didn’t we think then that cyclists deserved some space of their own? And why now do we also see roads leading somewhere but no accompanying pavement or path? Is it assumed no-one would ever want to walk or cycle in that place again once a road for cars had been created?
The B4044 from Eynsham to Oxford is a prime example of this.
It is with regret that I also hear motorists moaning about it. Most don’t have enough intelligence to get past their angst and presume we shouldn’t be on the road because we don’t pay the same taxes. I wonder where they think we should be?
Although their argument is wrong their reasoning is the same. Because cyclists don’t have a space of their own they are forced to share the road with vehicles that are quite literally able to maim or kill them. It’s like forcing pedestrians to walk on pavements scattered with sleeping tigers.
The figures speak for themselves. Cars and cyclists don’t mix. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 19,000 cyclists were killed or injured in reported road accidents in 2013. 13 children were killed while cycling and 105 adults.
If those cyclists had been on segregated cycle paths those numbers would be drastically different.
Of course you can change a junction and lower the speed limit and these are all welcome, but as I and many other cyclists know, you could just as easily install segregated cycle paths at the same time as you rip up the road for what seems yet another annual spring clean of our tarmac.
Maybe then our children will be safe while cycling.