Anyone who regularly cycles in the countryside knows that riding on narrow, winding roads where motorists routinely exceed the speed limit is highly dangerous. Roughly half of cycling deaths happen outside cities, despite bicycle use being relatively low in rural areas.
Ralph Smyth, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, called for lower speed limits on rural roads and highlighted that the Dutch speed limit of 50kph (31mph) on country roads has been more cost-effective than their 30kph (19mph) limit in towns. He also requested that the power to take civil action against careless drivers, granted to local authorities under the Traffic Management Act 2004 but to date not implemented, be brought into force.
Smyth pointed out that cycling in the countryside isn’t just about sport or leisure. Public transport in rural areas tends to be sporadic and expensive, so many people would like to be able to use bikes as a cheap and convenient mode of transport. The potential benefits would be as great for low-income households as for the environment and the economy.
The ideal, of course, would be better integration between public transport and safe bike routes, so that cycling could be an important part of longer journeys and rule out the the need to maintain a car.
Attitudes to the importance of cycling vary widely from one local authority to another. Leicester and Manchester were presented as “good news” stories, Leicester having increased cycling numbers by 1,000 per year since 2005, and Manchester seeing a 25 percent increase in people cycling to work between 2001 and 2011. Several London boroughs, however, including Barnet, Newham, Westminster and the City of London, were criticised for not having done enough for cyclists.