Operation Safeway: is there a cycle solution?

Cycle Superhighway 2 runs from Bow to Aldgate pic: Flickr (Sludgegulper)

Cycle Superhighway 2 runs from Bow to Aldgate pic: Flickr (Sludgegulper)

Operation Safeway, the road safety initiative set up by the Metropolitan Police Service in November, ended this week.

Over a period of eight weeks, 14,000 fixed penalty notices were issued to dangerous cyclists and drivers across London. During this time, there have been no reported cycling deaths and a sharp reduction in cycling injuries.

Back in November, six cyclists were killed on the streets of London over just two weeks. Operation Safeway was introduced by the Metropolitan Police on 25 November to clamp down on dangerous behavior committed by all road users and it seems to have had some success.

Detective Chief Superintendent Glyn Jones of the MPS Road Traffic Unit announced that as a result of the operation, attitudes had begun to change. He said: “Eight weeks on, I have seen first-hand that attitudes have changed. This is reflected by the fact that we’ve had to issue less fixed penalty notices as the operation has progressed.”

So if people are becoming more conscious of their behaviour as a result of a higher police presence, could educating all road users about the vital need to look out for one another change the public’s attitude to cyclists?

Henry Obuabang, Sales Manager at Discount Bicycles in New Cross has seen first-hand the positive impact of Operation Safeway. He believes that encouraging all road users to work together is vital to keeping all vulnerable road users safe on the streets of London: “It would be great [if learning about cyclists was a compulsory part of the driving test] perhaps there should be a module on sharing the road.”

“But I think Boris and other Mayors and leaders of local areas have to do their bit and tackle the problem by proactively doing the things that are needed to force drivers into considering other roads users. Not just cyclists but pedestrians too. There is a lot more education needed.”

Arguably, it’s not just motorists which pose a safety problem. There is  little more frustrating for a driver than seeing cyclists jumping red lights or dangerously weaving through traffic: extra consideration is needed among cyclists too.

There are more extreme solutions. Recent plans unveiled for ‘Skycycle’– segregated cycle paths built over existing railways are being considered, but would cost over £200m and take an estimated 20 years to complete.

Surely, money invested in better education of road safety would be much more cost effective. As Obuabang puts it: “Infrastructure [changes] would be good. But I think you’d get more for your money if you educated people on sharing the road.”

A little extra education would bring road users together safely, saving money and lives in the process.


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