Cyclists generally feel safer on quieter roads. A survey of Londoners found that cyclists consider quiet roads to be safer than busy roads. Four-fifths consider quiet roads to be safe, compared with 49 per cent (regular cyclists) or 28 per cent (occasional cyclists) for busy roads. A recent study of current cyclists in London found that cyclists were willing to increase their journey time to travel on better, safer routes. Current London cyclists are prepared to travel further to cycle in cycle lanes, bus lanes, on residential roads and would travel three times further to cycle on off-road routes. Around half of all cyclists would change their route to travel through parks and green spaces, or to travel on a dedicated on-road cycle lane. And around 40 per cent said they would change their route in order to use a Cycle Superhighway.The key fact is that only 28% of occasional cyclists in London think busy roads are safe, compared to a majority who think quiet roads are safe. That may sound obvious to some, but to me it shows illustrates two important points:
- Most people don't think cycling itself is unsafe, just cycling in heavy traffic.
- Busy roads are more likely to have cycling 'infrastructure' such as advisory cycle lanes, but they don't seem to have much impact on safety perceptions. This suggests we need better infrastructure, a la the Netherlands.
The research about how far out of their way people are willing to go for a safe cycle route is also important. Choosing a slower but safer route is a form of 'avertive' behaviour, just like people moving away from a polluted road. It lowers the observed costs in the form of road accidents (or respiratory disease from the polluted road) but it increases the hidden costs borne by people in the form of higher expenditure of time or money to avoid the problem. Avertive behaviour prompted by unsafe cycling conditions ranges from finding a slower but safer route to spending loads of money on luminous clothing to not cycling at all. These costs are very large but to my knowledge are not well accounted for in current transport assessment methods.