The Politics of Cycle Safety in London and the UK

The Politics of Cycle Safety in London and the UK


Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster


This presentation analyses the changing politics of cycle safety in London and the UK. It draws on current research into media coverage of cycle deaths, as well as ongoing involvement in advocacy and practice.


The UK is a low-cycling country whose record in cycling safety has come under sustained critique by local advocates. This presentation discusses how common sense understanding of cycle safety are changing in the UK, and specifically in London. It draws on current research exploring (a) whether and (b) how cyclists' deaths are reported in the media, in London and other contexts. This is supplemented by critical reflection about ongoing involvement in practice, policy and advocacy.

The research data suggests that in the London context, there has been both quantitative and qualitative change in the media coverage of cycle deaths. Statistics and examples of textual data are presented to illustrate this shift, which is compared with material from other UK contexts. In analysing this material, the presentation argues that in London there is an ongoing, albeit contested, shift away from the individualisation of cycling risk. This shift seems to be much less apparent in many other (although not all) UK contexts.

The presentation discusses why this is the case, specifically referring to distinctive features of the London cycling policy context, and how these relate to broader transport trends, drawing upon data from the UK 2011 Census and other relevant sources. Specific national and London-based controversies are referred to, including debates around infrastructural quality and the extent of personal responsibility for harm to oneself or others. The presentation is illustrated with images used to put forward conflicting points of view.

Finally, the presentation considers likely futures for cycle policy and cycle safety in the UK.


Association for European Transport