In a joint press statement, the European Cyclists Federation, representing bicycle users, and COLIBI, COLIPED and ETRA representing the European bicycle industry, have expressed their disappointment with the UN/ECE Road Safety Week Campaign, launched yesterday. The campaign is aimed at improving the safety of vulnerable road users including cyclists.
In preparation of the Road Safety Week Campaign, the UN/ECE has developed a framework for national road safety campaigns which contains practical guidelines for the improvement of vulnerable road users safety. Guidelines referring to cyclists safety are limited to the encouragement to the wearing of helmets and to improving the visibility of bicycles at night.
To ECF, COLIBI, COLIPED and ETRA these guidelines show once again that cyclists safety has been considered from the car drivers viewpoint.
"Road safety needs to be tackled from a broader perspective. Traffic should be fundamentally reorganised starting with pedestrians’ and cyclists’ needs and adjusting road conditions as a consequence, including the use of motorised transport," said Marie-Caroline Coppieters, Secretary General of ECF.
"Presently traffic is still being managed for the convenience of car users. Measures for vulnerable road users come second and as a result, are all too often patchy, inadequate and incoherent. Cyclists get a stretch of bicycle lane here, a protective island there. Some road safety institutes and uninformed politicians even advocate cyclists wearing protective devices such as helmets. These kind of measures do not prevent accidents. They leave the traffic system unquestioned.
Annick Roetynck, Secretary General of ETRA, the eurowide equivalent of the ACT, endorsed the ECF claim: "The European standard (EN 1078:1997) for bicycle helmets does not include specifications on shock absorption capacity in case of collision with another vehicle. As a matter a fact, the exact impact of such a collision is still an unknown factor. A helmet is not made to withstand road traffic conditions and therefore cannot be regarded as a road safety measure."
Eddie Eccleston, the president of COLIBI and MD of Ideal Bicycles, added: "Pushing cycle helmets forward as a means of improving road safety is turning the argument up side down. If you followed this line logically, you would end up with something as ludicrous as body-armour for pedestrians."
ECF, COLIBI, COLIPED and ETRA believe that road safety can only be improved by gearing the different modes of transport to one another. Therefore all road users should be treated on equal terms. Consequently, motorised traffic needs to be calmed. Measures aimed at reducing both the speed and the volume of motorised traffic, they say, is the only well-founded option to enhance road safety and to prevent accidents.
This solution has the added advantage that not only cyclists and pedestrians, but also car users will benefit from the reduced risk, says the joint press statement.
Currently, many road users are averse to cycling because they consider it to be unsafe. As a result they use cars for journeys which could very easily be done by bicycle. Thus a vicious circle is created. The unsafe conditions caused by motorised traffic result in more motorised traffic. Nevertheless, the benefits of cycling are legion. In highly populated areas with busy traffic, cycling often offers the shortest journey time. Moreover, cycling is healthy. Bicycles save natural resources, are accessible to all and do not take up a lot of room.
The four organisations advocate ending the car users dominant position in street hierarchy. Greet Engelen, Secretary General of COLIBI and COLIPED, believes this is a job for planners.
It is imperitive for politicians to give absolute priority to vulnerable road users in traffic and road safety policy. We are not only asking this for the sake of cyclists. Our cities urgently need more cyclists, not less. Statistics show that the more cyclists on the road, the safer traffic in general becomes. Car drivers get accustomed to having cyclists around them. As a result, they are more likely to adapt their driving behaviour. Eventually, fewer accidents will occur. Create the right biotope and the species will prosper safely."