Two terrible deaths within a month have brought cycling safety to the fore, but the problems are not new and the Plain in particular has been a worry for a long time. Safety was the rationale behind the rebuild of the Plain in 2016 (which made things slightly worse), I used it as an example of junction design that failed to address walking and cycling safety and accessibility, and I tweeted about it just two weeks before the fatality.
Unfortunately there are no easy solutions, at the Plain or elsewhere in Oxford. Indeed I would argue that there are no significant improvements that aren't either very expensive or a long way from being Pareto (making no one worse off): witness the unhappiness about the parking removal in the Quickways and the modal filtering in the low traffic neighbourhoods. more
Oxford's "Quickways" schemes may make cycling some trips faster for some people, but the biggest gains from them will be making cycling safer and more accessible. I will cycle some routes more slowly if these schemes are implemented!
So "Quickways" is a misnomer — "Saferways" would be much better. My previous post about these schemes focused on technical details. Here I want to focus on the basic road safety argument for them. more
This map shows the collisions on the north-western end of Cowley Rd (the B480) between 2005 and 2019. The purple stars are serious collisions (resulting in overnight hospital stays) and the pink ones are slight ones (that resulted in police reports).
collisions on Cowley Rd, 2005-2019
Cycling advocates sometimes seem to get themselves into a knot trying to distinguish subjective and objective cycling safety. How can it be safe to cycle, while at the same time improving safety is a key priority?
I see two things that are central to resolving this apparent inconsistency. The first is that there is no dichotomy between safe and unsafe, and that safety profiles vary between people: in particular there is a difference between the people currently cycling and the people who could potentially cycle. The second is that there are longer-term dangers that appear neither to immediate observation nor in accident statistics — in particular, it is critical to take stress into account.
It is quite safe for me to cycle into central Oxford, either by myself or with my seven year old on a tandem. But it would be unsafe (at most times) for me to cycle that same route accompanied by the same seven year old on their own bicycle, or for most twelve year olds to cycle it by themselves. And I can cycle that route without much stress. But for some people, even some fitter and more experienced at cycling than me, that identical route may be really stressful, to the point where repeated, long-term exposure to it would be detrimental to their health. more
A common problem when considering safety is confusing averages and "tail" (rare) events in evaluating risks. This helps explain why driver education is largely useless as a way of making cycling safer, and suggests an explanation for why safety is a bigger concern for women and why teenage boys cycle on the pavement. more
Living in Britain, one encounters a regular series of stories about how dangerous Australian animals are. (Otherwise, the UK media treat Australia pretty much the way the Australian media treat New Zealand.) And most people accept this as gospel, to the extent that it's often given as a reason for not visiting Australia. In fact, this is complete nonsense: British cows kill as many people each year as all of Australia's "dangerous" animals put together. more
I am not yet a British citizen, but as an Australian resident in the country I get to vote in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership. (Unlike European citizens resident in the UK, or British citizens who have been abroad for too long.) So I take the liberty of using "we" in what follows. more
In the UK, the averages suggest that you are slightly less likely to be killed cycling two miles to the shops than you are making the same trip on foot, but slightly more likely to be seriously injured. more