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Safer roads needed to nurture future Olympic cyclists


Olympic cyclist Andy Tennant is backing a campaign by Brake and Bolt Burdon Kemp for safer streets to enable more kids to get out and about on bikes and protect those already cycling. The campaign calls for action to project cyclists in communities across the UK, helping us foster more world-class cyclists, and improve families’ health and happiness.

A survey out today by road safety charity Brake and specialist personal injury solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp of more than 1,000 parents reveals widespread fears about letting children cycle, and support for more safe cycling measures:

  • parents’ fears are stopping many kids having the freedom to cycle: more than half (52%) say they won’t allow their child to cycle unsupervised once they reach age 12 because of traffic danger.
  • three quarters (76%) of families would cycle together or do so more if local roads were made safer through 20mph limits and cycle paths connecting homes, schools and community facilities.
  • only a small minority already have widespread 20mph limits (9%) and cycle paths (7%) joining homes and facilities in their area. Of those who don’t already have them, nine in ten (90%) would support widespread 20mph limits in their community, and 92% would support cycle paths connecting homes with local facilities.

Through their Cycle for Life campaign, Brake and Bolt Burdon Kemp are calling on the government and local authorities to promote safe cycling by investing in measures to protect cyclists such as traffic-free and segregated cycle paths and widespread 20mph limits.

They are calling on drivers to pledge to slow down to 20mph in communities, take care to look out for cyclists and give them a wide berth to help prevent devastating casualties and enable more people, including children, to cycle safely.

Individuals and organisations can back the campaign at

Andy Tennant, British track and road cyclist competing in the Olympics, is supporting Brake and Bolt Burdon Kemp’s Cycle for Life campaign. He said: “As a kid I cycled everywhere I could and it helped me to become the athlete I am today. That’s why I’m backing Brake’s campaign to make our roads safer for cycling, to help more families get outdoors and get active. We need more safe routes for cycling, but drivers can also play a key part in making our streets safer, and help nurture the future of British cycling, by always looking out for cyclists and driving below 20mph around homes and schools.”

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “You don’t need to cycle to Olympic standards for it to change your life. Cycling makes you feel amazing: you get fitter and spend more time outdoors, and it’s an environmentally-friendly way to get around. The best way to encourage cycling, to and protect existing cyclists, is to make it safer through widespread 20mph limits where people live and segregated cycle paths connecting homes and community facilities. We need the government to provide more funding for safety features like these, and we need more local authorities to make safe cycling and walking a priority. We’re also appealing to drivers to help make roads safer for young cyclists by pledging to slow down to 20mph in residential and urban areas.”

Cheryl Abrahams, Partner at Bolt Burdon Kemp, solicitors who specialise in representing injured cyclists, said: “Cycling is part of childhood and offers fantastic benefits for families to get outdoors and lead healthy, active lifestyles. However, having seen first-hand the devastation that road crashes can cause to children and their families, it is understandable that parents fear letting their children cycle. That’s why Bolt Burdon Kemp is working with Brake on the Cycle for Life campaign. We fully support Brake’s calls for more government investment in safe cycling, and for this to be a priority for local authorities, so all families can get out and about for their health and enjoyment.”


In 2011, 107 cyclists were killed on roads in Great Britain, four fewer than in 2010, while cyclist serious injuries rose by 425 (16%) and slight injuries rose by 1,609 (11%). Cycle traffic increased by just 2.2% in the same period.

20mph limits help protect cyclists and pedestrians because driving at 20mph gives drivers a far better chance of reacting to unexpected hazards and stopping in time in an emergency. A study of 20mph zones in London found they reduced cyclist casualties by 17%. Further studies have concluded that reducing the speed and volume of traffic would improve cycle safety more than narrow cycle lanes.

Calls for government action

Brake wants 20mph limits, plus safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians, to be the norm in our communities. Brake welcomes that some forward-thinking local authorities are investing in safe widespread 20mph limits, and other safe cycling measures, but wants the government to enable, encourage and fund far more work of this kind to take place.

The government recently announced £15 million in funding to address cycle safety at junctions on top of the £15 million in funding announced in March for cycle routes, storage facilities and repair centres. These two funding streams, which Brake welcomes, are on top of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. However, Brake calls on the government to ensure this funding is used primarily for making cycling safer, and to invest more in widespread 20mph limits and traffic-free routes, which can deliver environmental and health benefits as well as casualty prevention.

The government is also currently consulting on guidance for local authorities on setting local speed limits. Brake is urging the Department for Transport to revise this guidance to encourage widespread 20mph limits, and remove red tape that often hinders implementation of these schemes, in line with evidence on the benefits 20mph limits deliver for communities.

Advice to parents

Making the decision to let your child cycle on roads without supervision can be tough. If you do decide to let your child cycle, there are steps you can take to improve their safety.

Firstly, consider what the safest routes are in your area and make sure your child understands why it’s important to stick to these. You should also ensure your child understands the rules of the road and how to navigate them as safely as possible. You can ask your child’s school about Bikeability, the government sponsored training scheme that teaches kids cycle safety.

Make sure your child has a properly fitted cycle helmet and wears high-visibility clothing to help them be seen by drivers. Help them to maintain their bike to a high standard, checking brakes, lights and gears are in good condition. Click here for more advice.

Parents and any driver can also help protect children by making a commitment to slow down to below 20mph around homes, schools and shops. It’s a lifesaving speed as it gives you a far better chance of stopping in time in an emergency.

Case study

 On 28 June 2004, seven year old David Cameron was cycling with friends on a street near where he lived in Newcastle. As he went to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing, a speeding car driven by 21 year old Mark Tye came from the opposite direction. David was hit at 61mph as he crossed and was flung from his bike. His mum Debbie rushed to the scene to see paramedics trying to save her son. David, who had cystic fibrosis, was taken to Newcastle General Hospital but pronounced dead later that day. Three years later, the council lowered the speed limit on the road from 40 to 30mph as a result of Debbie’s tireless campaigning.

Debbie Cameron says: “We were devastated when David was killed – and still suffer anguish every day – all because of one person’s selfish, reckless actions behind the wheel. You can try to imagine how you’d feel if your son or daughter were knocked down, but you can’t imagine the hole it’s left behind. I fully support Brake’s campaign to make cycling safer for kids. I want drivers to think of David and slow down to 20mph or below around homes, schools and shops. It’s up to all of us to help make our communities safer places, where children can cycle without fear, and to stop other families suffering like we have.”