What a horrible irony emerged this week when figures revealed that Portsmouth – on the face of it a perfect city for cycling and cyclists – was in fact the most dangerous place in the country outside London for people on two wheels.
We have said before that the cycling provision in the city is middling when it should be excellent, and our view has not changed. It’s sad that city planners of 50 or 60 years ago did not have the foresight to incorporate cycling lanes into Portsmouth, as happened in many continental towns at the time; we could be seen as a benchmark not just in the region but across Europe, to take advantage of our flat terrain and relatively small size.
However, there is no point arguing about that now. The city is too overdeveloped to see any widespread introduction of cycle lanes, so we must work with and improve what we have.
And, what has become clear this week – and also at last night’s Portsmouth Cycle Forum – is that there needs to be a lot more understanding on the roads.
Firstly, there are still too many drivers who seem to think that cyclists are pests to deter from the roads. Stories of driving too close, too fast and dangerously are legion. Many motorists also do not realise the consequences of their actions – when they park on double-yellow lines or cycle lanes they will force cyclists to have to veer into the middle of the road, but the finger of blame in those cases should not be pointed at the two-wheeler.
So we need to see more consideration.
But that also applies to cyclists. Riding at night with no lights, jumping stop signs, ignoring people waiting at pedestrian crossings, riding on narrow roads when a cycle lane is available... examples of these are also prevalent in this city and all of them give cyclists a bad name as being selfish and inconsiderate.
Cycling is getting more popular. Portsmouth will only become more, not less congested. Cycling is a healthy, cheap way of getting around the city and we would like to see it encouraged. But first, we may need to get rid of the adversarial attitude that often exists.