Just looking at the latest road casualty stats for Wirral and they make very uncomfortable reading for the various authorities tasked with reducing carnage on the road.
2013 saw a big increase in casualties (+27%). All of that increase was accounted for by vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
The stand out figure for me is cyclist casualties and not just because a bicycle is my main mode of transport. That does give me a very real insight and I know from first hand experience that provision for cyclists in Wirral is absolutely dire. Nowhere more so than in Birkenhead where there is virtually no specialist provision to encourage cycling and reduce the number of casualties.
Whilst it is pleasing to see modest growth in the number of recorded journeys by bicycle, it is incredibly frustrating that the number of casualties is also rising:
- Figures for reported killed or seriously injured cyclists in Wirral rose by 32% last year.
- These casualties have doubled in less than a decade
- Casualties have risen in five of the past six years
- Over the same period, casualty stats for car occupants are down by 69%
It’s obviously wonderful that fewer individuals and families are suffering the trauma of road casualties. However, overwhelmingly this is as a result of improvements in vehicle standards and tougher action on drink driving. In the meantime, far too little attention has been paid to vulnerable road users like cyclists. It is absolutely no surprise to me that, with the increase in cycling, we are seeing more cyclists injured.
I was the first Wirral councillor to sign up to the CTCs Space for Cycling campaign which has the thoroughly reasonable aim of creating conditions where anyone can cycle anywhere.
Only 10 others have followed suit which leaves 55 councillors who need to reflect on why only 1.6% of journeys to work in Wirral are by bicycle. Thousands of journeys in Wirral every day could be switched from car to bicycle creating a healthier population, a cleaner environment and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
That won’t happen until most adults feel that cycling is safe and that won’t happen until Wirral creates space for cycling.