Tuesday 23 November 2010

Cycling and car dependency in rural areas

People in rural areas need to take home up to 20% more than those in urban areas in order to reach an acceptable living standard, according to a report.

The report cited transport and fuel as the main extra cost burdens.

A car is a significant additional cost for rural households because people said public transport is inadequate

Nicola Lloyd, executive director at the CRC, said there were ways to lessen the need for expensive travel to reach essential services in rural communities.

These included greater access to broadband and mobile technology, "and creative solutions to providing employment and services closer to home", Ms Lloyd said.

Naturally cycling is not mentioned and it would be interesting to know how Ms. Lloyd commutes to work.

It is perfectly true that rural communities are disadvantaged by poor public transport. But the other side of the coin, which is naturally not mentioned by this quango, is the way in which cycling is actively discouraged at both a national and local level. Apart from the little matter of joke infrastructure there is also the reality that cycling and walking on rural roads can be a very frightening and dangerous experience. Drivers come screaming round blind corners at 50 mph or faster assuming that the road ahead will be empty. If they kill you they will receive a short driving ban for ‘carelessness’.

Rural roads present particular challenges for cyclists, as the risk of being killed is much higher than for other roads. Almost half of cyclist fatalities occurred on rural roads, and the proportion of collisions on these roads increases for those aged 40+ years. Casualty severity was found to increase with the posted speed limit, and so measures to reduce traffic speeds in rural areas may benefit cyclists.

Collisions at night/in the dark were more likely to result in a fatality, and rural roads present particular difficulties, as not only are the speed limits generally higher but the roads are often unlit. A detailed examination of these accidents found that the bicycle was commonly impacted in the rear by the vehicle.

What’s more, according to the CPRE:

two-thirds of people feel threatened by motor traffic all or some of the time on rural roads.

In 1999 during the consultation on the current strategy, we highlighted the problems on rural roads and then secured changes to the Transport Act 2000. However the Government has been dragging its feet since and proposals for a ‘rural road hierarchy’ have not come to anything. Aside from a few demonstration projects, little seems to have changed beyond the publication of new reports and guidance.

Plainly change will not come under the current ConDem government and it won’t come under the next Labour government either. Britain is locked into car-dependency and a culture of reckless and lawless driving which seems unlikely ever to change until the oil runs out.