Lancaster cycling campaign group question 'most bike friendly city in the UK' claim

A cyclist near the Lancaster Canal
A cyclist near the Lancaster Canal

Lancaster cycling campaign group Dynamo has questioned a survey naming the city as the most bike-friendly in the country.

In a letter to the Lancaster Guardian, the group challenged a survey carried out by True Solicitors that Lancaster offers some of the best air quality and safest roads out of the 39 cities studied.

Lancaster was recently named the UK's most bike friendly city in a survey

Lancaster was recently named the UK's most bike friendly city in a survey

Dick Follows, from the group, said: "Lancaster has been named the most-bike friendly city in the UK according to a survey by True solicitors. If only this were true!

Then Dynamo, Lancaster and District cycle campaign group, after 25 years cycle campaigning could pack up and its members work on some other cause where progress was a little more forthcoming than in cycle campaigning.

A quick Google for ‘best or most cycle friendly city’ shows several recent surveys by the likes of hotel chains, cycle magazines, large bike retailers etc.

All have a commercial interest in projecting their name into the cycling world.

True solicitors specialises in personal injury claims including traffic accidents.

To assess their validity you have to question the methodology of these, cycle friendly surveys, especially as they each produce different winners and losers.

Other than the True survey none put Lancaster in the top spot or even mentioned our city.

Dynamo believes that while there are several factors, such as air quality, convenience of routes, signage etc that are important, the number one criterion for a cycle friendly city is safety.

True’s safety statistic: one accident per 729 people is confusing.

Does it mean, one in every 729 cyclists has an accident, or does this figure include everybody in Lancaster, even those people who never cycle?

Neither does it say what type of accident, a minor one after which the cyclist gets back on his/her bike; a serious one involving the ambulance service and the police, or even the most serious of all: loss of life?

True also fails to mention the source of its figures. Are they official from the department of transport, the police - or are they their own figures?

We also must ask whether True had people cycle round the district, and if so for how long, and on which routes.

For there is no better way to get a feel for a safe cycle city than to ride round it regularly, at all times of the day and in all weathers just as most Dynamo members do.

And the story they tell will not be that it is a really safe city to cycle round.

Rather that it if you happen to live close to our one major safe strategic route: the Lune Path between Morecambe and Halton, or can cycle to work on the canal towpath, then yes, it does feels safe.

But if you need to use the main route in and out of the city the A6, or work at the power station and have to use the Heysham by-pass then it feels far from safe. The gyratory too, only offers limited safety while some stretches remain unprotected by dedicated cycle lanes.

Moreover, Dynamo’s regular surveys of the public show there is a large, suppressed demand for cycling and that by far the most common reason for not cycling is that it looks dangerous. A typical comment is that, it would be great if the kids could cycle to school but it’s just not safe.

Dynamo believes that we really do need safe, protected cycle routes to all our schools both primary and secondary as well as to our major work places such as the hospitals and the universities .

Figures from the independent Road Safety Federation bear out the public’s fears.

The A6 between the city centre and Lancaster university from 2007 to 2016 was the most dangerous stretch of ‘A’ road in the UK for cyclists and pedestrians, and together with the A683 (Caton Rd) remains ‘a persistently high risk road for cyclists and pedestrians’.

Furthermore, the police killed and seriously injured (KSI) figures for Lancaster cyclists are also deeply disturbing.

The most recent ones we have, show that from 10 KSIs in 2010 there has been a year on year increase of one KSI, but from 2017 to 2018 it jumped alarmingly from 18 KSIs to a disturbing 27 KSIs.

It’s true that some good cycling infrastructure was installed between 2005 -11 when Lancaster was a cycling demonstration town but there have been no improvements since.

Currently many of the cycle lanes and advanced stop boxes are all but invisible and the County cannot find the money for the red paint needed to make them clearly visible.

How much the County Council cares about its cyclists is reflected in its annual protected cycling and walking budget, which is £0!.

So finally, Dynamo feels it will be working in the city and district for some time in order to make Lancaster the truly most cycle-friendly city in the UK."