Cycling is overwhelmingly safe — but needs to be made safer

Owen Jones
4 min readMar 22, 2022
cycling is great, you should cycle

Yesterday, on the Jeremy Vine Show, we discussed the case of a cyclist who faces being prosecuted or fined after he reported a driver using a phone, because he blocked a van while doing so.

Now, I argued against him either being prosecuted or fined, and pointed out that cars are far more dangerous than bikes, by virtue of being massive husks of metal travelling at high speeds. The statistics bear this out: while 1 to 2 people are killed by cyclists each year, there are around 5 road deaths every day in the UK.

But the cyclist in question has submitted over 500 police complaints, and so while defending him, as a lighthearted aside, I said “even if he is a bit of a snitch” acting like a would-be Inspector Poirot. My own view is that it’s unlikely for the average individual to encounter over 500 incidents which require a police investigation, and therefore submitting that number of complaints is disproportionate to the problem at hand. This has set off what could be called ‘Cycling Twitter’, a corner of social media populated by very highly committed cyclists.

Now I should say that I am, myself, a very committed cyclist. I’ve cycled almost every day in central London for the last 13 years. It’s even a matter of Parliamentary record that I’m a “cycling socialist”: make that my epitaph! (A caveat is needed: I’m not cycling at the moment because my bike was recently nicked, which is the eighth time this has happened because I can’t take my bike inside my flat, so I’m forced to leave it outside because there isn’t any nearby bike locker, just one example of why we need better bike infrastructure in this country).

But what was intended to be a lighthearted aside — which I accept was unduly flippant language — has led to an avalanche of comments from angry cyclists which I really must take issue with. If you read through them, they suggest that cycling is basically taking your life in your own hands as you navigate through a chaotic lawless war zone. This isn’t my experience, or the experience of most people I know who cycle. I realise this is all subjective, that the plural of anecdote isn’t data: but if you’ve cycled thousands of times through your country’s biggest and most traffic packed urban centre without feeling like you’re in constant danger, and…

Owen Jones

Author of 'The Establishment' and 'Chavs', Socialist, Guardian columnist. Losing my Northern accent. My views etc...