Cyclists across Oxfordshire have welcomed the news that speed cameras in the county were today turned back on, eight months after being switched off.
Funding was withdrawn for 72 cameras and 89 mobile sites last August, following a huge reduction in the council’s road safety grant from the government.
Police said since then, although overall trend was for serious and slight injuries to go up, cyclists had bucked the trend, with their accidents actually going down.
Data released by Thames Valley police has revealed that in the six months after cameras were switched off, two cyclists were seriously injured and another 15 were slightly injured at fixed camera sites. During the corresponding period for 2009-10 when the cameras were switched on, there were five seriously injured cyclists, 16 slightly injured and no fatalities.
Across the whole of Oxfordshire there were also fewer accidents involving cyclists this year, despite the dormant speed cameras. While cameras were turned off, there was one cyclist fatality, 27 serious injuries and 92 slight casualties. The year before, there was one cyclist fatality, 22 seriously injured, and 109 slightly injured.
It’s not yet clear why cyclist injuries fell, while injuries and fatalities overall went up. Richard Owen, operations manager at the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership, says the figures are so small they are subject to random fluctuation. But cyclist groups are still pleased that cars will be less likely to speed, with the cameras switched back on.
Jacob Haddad, a first year Engineer at Wadham and a member of the University Cycle Club, commented, “Whilst drivers slowing down in general would make the roads safer for all users, cyclists included, I am not sure that speed cameras do much by themselves. They can even create collisions as drivers slam on the breaks when approaching a camera. The fact tha
t there were more serious injuries with the cameras switched on does not surprise me.
“What’s really needed to make cycling safer are bike-friendly junctions, better road surfaces and cycle training highlighting HGV blind spots which are the cause of most cyclist fatalities. I’m surprised to hear that the switch-off is a cost saving measure, as I would have assumed the cameras are a great source of revenue. The more bikes on the road, the safer they’ll be.”
Christopher Peck, policy co-ordinator at CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, said he was delighted that the Thames Valley police had “come to their senses”.
“It was very interesting that speed went up as soon as the cameras were turned off.”
“There are very high levels of cycling in Oxfordshire, particularly in Oxford. Therefore it is very important to really push very hard on road safety when it comes to drivers who are the main source of cyclist casualty.”
A spokesperson for Oxfordshire council said in a statement: “The council very much welcomes this positive approach to financing the operation of speed cameras. The county council did not delight in withdrawing funding for speed cameras last year, but took this decision to protect other service areas.
“We recognise the role that speed cameras have to play in road safety for all road users including cyclists.”