Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Woman's Hour, what a disappointment

Today's Woman's Hour looked at women cyclists and lorries. A promising idea... or maybe not.

It's true that six of the seven cyclists killed this year by HGVs have been women but that's not representative of statistics over the past few years. There was some very interesting information from a woman whose daughter was killed nine years ago in an HGV collision. She's worked with the lorry company whose driver killed her daughter to find new ways to protect vulnerable road users and has been instrumental in getting the company to fit proximity sensors, modified mirrors and give drivers more training.

But that's where my interest faded. There was mention of headphones and helmets, with the suggestion that women fear helmet hair (sigh) and the mention that a couple of the women killed had felt 'vulnerable' on the road. But no one discussed why they felt vulnerable or if they had put themselves in danger by undertaking said lorries.

Men will take to the roads more readily than a lot of women, but it shouldn't feel like such a big risk. Why don't we have better protected cycle lanes, better maintained roads and the support of the police?

The other thing that has to change is attitude. When I first took to the roads I let myself be bullied into going through red lights by cyclists and drivers alike. I allowed impatient cyclists to make me feel like I had to go up the sides of lorries to get to the front of the junction even if I didn't feel safe doing so. Not any more.

As head of the company cycling network I've been approached by several women thinking of taking to the road. All of them were worried about safety but my answer was the same: there's no law that says you have to get to the front at junctions, no one can force you to be unsafe, if you don't want to nip through traffic, don't. If someone behind you gets cross and impatient it's their problem not yours.

When it comes to red traffic lights and creeping past lorries, no means no.


  1. Can I recommend the book Cyclecraft by John Franklin, it has plenty of good advice on how to deal with these situations. I agree the Woman's Hour piece was very disapointing, it really didn't take the issue seriously.

  2. I've heard good things about Cyclecraft, it should be better marketed.