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July 29th 2020

Personal Injury

Government’s ‘cycling and walking revolution’ has potential to prevent thousands of serious accidents each year

Jane Woodcock

Jane Woodcock

Senior Legal Executive and Head of Personal Injury

Government’s ‘cycling and walking revolution’ has potential to prevent thousands of serious accidents each year

It has been pleasing to see detailed plans to protect people from harm at the heart of the ‘cycling and walking revolution’ announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week.

It has been pleasing to see detailed plans to protect people from harm at the heart of the ‘cycling and walking revolution’ announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week.

Too often in the past we have heard rallying calls for people to get out of their homes and onto their bikes with little consideration for just how difficult and dangerous doing so can be.

But would you currently be happy to get on your bike and cycle through town and city centres alongside the daily rush hour traffic? The answer for very many is no.

Much of the media coverage around the Government’s report – ‘Gear Change – a bold vision for cycling and walking’ – has focused on the health and environmental benefits. GPs will even be able to prescribe cycling, with patients able to access bikes through their local surgery.

Of course, greater physical activity across the nation will help to reduce obesity levels and depression, and place less pressure on the NHS.

However, as lawyers supporting those who are badly injured on our roads, our eyes are always on accident statistics, and they alone are enough to justify this huge Government investment into change.

The latest provisional figures from the Department of Transport show there were an estimated 17,470 cyclists injured on Great Britain’s roads in the year to June 2019, and 3,790 killed or seriously injured.

It is reported that 22,210 pedestrians were also injured in that time and some 6,290 killed or seriously injured. These are numbers which must be brought down significantly.

New networks and punishments can transform cycling safety

This new £2 billion initiative by the Government demonstrates that it has now been recognised that the required structures and networks are simply not in place to keep pedestrians and cyclists truly safe. Big change is required, and welcomed.

Mr Johnson says the money will be spent on creating thousands of miles of new cycle lanes, providing cycling lessons for children and adults and strengthening the Highway Code to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

His report talks of building thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities, separating cyclists from volume traffic, both at junctions and on the stretches, and pedestrians.

Other changes proposed include introducing safe passing speeds and distances

This, we believe, would make a huge improvement to safety, as many of the serious accidents and injuries we see result from accidents at junctions and in high traffic volume.

Importantly, it talks of also placing an emphasis on other road users to give greater consideration to those walking or cycling, introducing the offence of causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate driving; and increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving or careless driving when under the influence of drink and drugs.

Again, this is a measure we welcome.

Reducing number of serious, life-changing injuries will be biggest positive impact

Our team supports many pedestrians and cyclists every day who suffer serious, life-changing injuries in accidents with vehicles.

Many face lengthy periods unable to work or enjoy their hobbies, and require long-term, dedicated packages of rehabilitation support to help them get their lives back on track.

Others sadly are left facing the loss of loved ones, and a large percentage of these accidents could have been avoided if the plans set out in Mr Johnson’s plans had already been a reality.

Mr Johnson says that during the Covid-19 lockdown, cyclists have enjoyed ‘new found safety on our roads with fewer cars hurtling down our streets, near our homes and our gardens and our schools.’

Those busy days will soon return however, as will the dangers cyclists and pedestrians face without implementation of the proposed changes.

It therefore needs a commitment from all, from the Government and local authorities, and all other road users, to ensure this £2 billion investment over the next five years achieves the Prime Minister’s goals, and results in healthier lives, safer roads, and less people being seriously injured.

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