Any increase in cycling casualties is bad, but Commissioner Green's campaign won't reduce them. The last-reported increase in casualties was among those 30-49 years old, so promotion of child helmets doesn't address that. No child was killed cycling in Norfolk in 2015 (the last year with full published data) while all those seriously injured were in collisions with motor vehicles, which no helmet maker says their helmets are intended for. This is the same "Saving The Unicorn" mistake that Jersey made in targetting a well-known but actually almost non-existent factor, instead of doing something more likely to help.
Plus, cycle helmets are a crash mitigation measure at best (rather than preventing crashes) and there's quite some debate about whether they're even that, to put it mildly. We need our police to focus on the culprits and not blame those injured, like by telling them to wear helmets. This is unacceptable: would anyone dare respond to a surge in adults getting knifed by telling children to wear stab vests?
In other words, child helmets would probably have saved no-one and campaigning for them seems likely to reduce child cycling just when we need it to increase, to help overcome Norfolk's obesity crisis and pollution problem. Hopefully Commissioner Green is misinformed, rather than deliberately attempting to distract from Norfolk Police's failure to reduce cycling casualties.
What should Norfolk Police be doing?
How about taking some actions that seem likely to reduce the number of cycling collisions in the first place?
I've still not had a reply yet, but apparently they replied to a Diss cyclist that "With limited resources we look to prioritise Policing of the ‘Fatal 4’, those offences that are identified as being the main contributors to those killed or seriously injured on our roads, they are as follows:
1. Excess Speed
2. Drink/Drug Driving
3. Use of mobile phones whilst driving
4. Not wearing a seatbelt"
What's wrong with that?
Most of it's OK - I think stopping phone-driving should probably be the top priority these days - but if resources are limited, then I'd definitely prefer the police to be stopping dangerous driving near people cycling or walking, rather than targetting seatbelt non-use. I know seatbelt non-use isn't good, but what's more dangerous to others?
If we've got to prioritise limited resources, then let's prioritise based on how many innocent people it could help. Basically, the police should support the "Mind Out" message from the Casualty Reduction Partnership with action.
What is KLWNBUG doing?
As well as continuing to push for RoadJustice and space4cycling, I've been trying to help the Norfolk Casualty Reduction Partnership Vulnerable Users Subgroup, which is basically the bit dealing with things like walking, cycling and horse-riding, alongside people from other local cycling groups including our friends at Norwich Cycling Campaign.
Any results yet?
It's been difficult with the constraints imposed on the subgroup (funding, scope, deadlines and so on), but I hope you agree that the new "Mind Out For Each Other" adverts on buses and so on showing a good wide pass (either a motorist overtaking a cyclist or a cyclist passing a parked car, depending on interpretation) are much better than what the county council put out in previous years. I hope that next year's campaign, with more time, will be better yet.
We've also shared some evidence with cyclists that might help inform them, such as three-quarters of cycling collisions currently occurring at junctions (so look out and don't be too stubborn to give way if a motorist gets it wrong - a collision will hurt you more than them). Riding well away from car doors is also another thing we can do to help keep ourselves safer.
Do the casualty figures reflect increased cycling levels?
Sadly, probably not. Serious-or-worse cycling casualties have increased by 35% in a year, according to that news report. For the last full calendar year (2015), it was a 50% increase. Cycling prevalence in Norfolk (the percentage of the population who cycle at all) increased about 6% in the year to 2015, although levels are still lower than 2010. Unless there's been a big surge which hasn't yet been reported, casualties are increasing faster than cycling levels.
Of course, cycling is still relatively safe and the health benefits still far outweigh the risks.
Shouldn't cyclists take responsibility for their own safety?
We'll keep engaging with the Casualty Reduction Partnership and pushing for RoadJustice and space4cycling and sustainable safety and all good things like that, generally trying to avoid Norfolk following in the failing footsteps of Lincolnshire which seems to have focused on helmets and blaming cyclists more than the motorists who seriously injure them. We've invited Commissioner Green to come on one of our rides, or meet with some of us at another mutually-convenient time. If you'd like to help with this, please just ask.