As part of the RoadPeace Challenge 2023, Charlotte Fletcher, Senior Associate in our Court of Protection department, discusses the potential impact of slower speeds on encouraging people to cycle to work.
In a world where we are concerned about climate change, conscious of our health, fuel prices are high, and public transport packed with commuters it would seem to make sense to bring the bike out from the shed and use it to get to work. However, despite many good reasons to cycle to work, the number of people who actually do cycle to work are at very low levels.
A Yougov Survey back in 2016 found that 87% of those polled do not cycle to work. There were a number of reason for this, to include:
- The need for more cycle lanes
- Distance to work
- A lack of cycling confidence
- Concern about having an accident.
More recently, in 2022 researchers at the University of Surrey found that commuters are more likely to cycle to work when the average speed of vehicle traffic on their route was below 20mph. It was in fact found that vehicle speed was the most important factor for people when deciding whether to cycle to work.
Cycling commuters in Wales are fortunate, as the Senedd has passed legislation to lower the default national speed limit on residential roads and busy pedestrian streets from 30mph to 20mph. It is hoped that this move will help to save lives, develop safer communities, and encourage more people to make more sustainable and active travel choices.
But proceed with caution! Sadly, too many cyclists are killed or seriously injured in Great Britain each year. In 2021, it was reported that 111 pedal cyclists were killed with a further 4,353 seriously injured and 11,994 slightly injured.
It will of course take several years to fully understand the impact of the new 20mph default national speed limit in Wales, both on the numbers of people choosing to use their bike to commute, and also on the numbers of people killed or seriously injured whilst cycling, however, I am hopeful that slower speeds will lead to safer roads for all road users.
As a Senior Associate in Hugh James’s Court of Protection Department I manage the property and financial affairs for a number of people who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of crashes when cycling, and see the lifelong effects such injuries can have. A significant part of my role is making sure such individuals have the best care, accommodation, and quality of life possible with the funds they have, which often arise from a successful litigation claim. It is, however, of course the case that no amount of money can undo the devastating and ongoing effects of such injuries on an individual and their family.
As a keen cyclist myself, I have been lucky for many years to be able to cycle to our Cardiff office on trails that mostly avoid roads. When I do venture out on the roads at weekends either alone or with family, I am often shocked at the speed of some vehicles. Tragically, all too often I hear of other cyclists who have not returned home from weekend rides, or whose lives will never be the same again.
I therefore wish to take this opportunity during Action for Brain Injury Week, UN Global Road Safety Week and the RoadPeace Challenge to urge drivers and road users to slow down, give each other space, and generally look out for one another.