I recently posted this on Twitter:
The image comes from a report published by British Cycling supported by Leigh Day. Leigh Day, our new partner, act for British Cycling’s 100,000 members offering specialist legal advice, and have a large contingent of cyclists across the firm.
This is my most popular Tweet to date with a staggering (wait for it…) 34 retweets and 14 favourites. Not bad, given my modest 123 followers. But more importantly, it has opened up discussions about the overall relevance of cycling, and why people should support Bespoke.
The Bespoke team is largely comprised of healthcare professionals. As you would expect, they are invested in better healthcare and injury prevention. The Bespoke team are people who cycle and who are passionate about cycling, driven by our own, personal experiences. Our colleagues, friends and families cycle, and we have all been or know someone who has been seriously injured on their bike. Some of us have friends, or friends of friends, who have tragically passed away. Sadly, most cyclists in London will tell you the same thing, and for the cycling community, this creates an obvious link to Bespoke.
So what if you’re not a cyclist, and you don’t want to cycle? Unfortunately, if you live in London, there will be very few degrees of separation between you and an injured cyclist. More importantly, the implications of wider spread, safer cycling have positive impacts on society as a whole, and I would challenge any well-informed person to argue against this. But Bespoke is not about arguments, or dictating actions or thoughts. Ultimately, it is about giving people freedom, by removing the fear of injury from cycling, which will help to make cycling fun and accessible to all.
What is essential for Bespoke is that we remain entirely agnostic and neutral in our approach, less we unintentionally bias our findings. We will not enter into any debate or argument, or make judgements about who is to blame. Singling out cyclists, HGVs, helmets, headphones, reflective gear, pedestrians, motorists, traffic lights, road layout, alcohol etc is counterproductive… because the factors are numerous, interlinking, complex and poorly understood.
What we will do is invite cyclists, pedestrians and motorists to voice their opinions, share their experiences and challenge our study, to ensure we produce the most accurate information, data and insights possible. The new evidence Bespoke will generate will help transport planners, local councils and healthcare leaders make better, more informed decisions about safety interventions, investment and cycling as a whole.
In the short term, our biggest challenge is to overcome the emotions which have built up over the last few years to form a melting pot of frustration, anger and confusion, from all sides and in all directions. And I can empathise with nearly all of these sides. The positive aspect of this is, that people care and are engaged, which only reinforces the view that the potential for change is great.
On this note I deliver my final comment – an appeal, to everyone, to suspend their emotions, and instead focus this energy towards making the Bespoke project as effective as it can be. We have already involved the cycling community at our public meeting earlier this month, but we need continued input with all road users recording near misses and cycle-related minor injuries on the Collideosco.pe app (past and present). For those with strong views, we welcome their thoughts on our study documents and patient questionnaires – are we asking the right questions to get valuable insights about cycling injury? And finally, because we are 100% reliant on charitable donations, to complete our study we need financial support too. We only hope that everyone, not just cyclists, can realise the value of this investment.
Director of Development, Barts Charity