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Siren call of tabloids turns sour
Siren call of tabloids turns sour

A favourite—often replayed—tune of the tabloids and shock-jocks tells the tall story of how bike lanes and traffic calming through your neighbourhoods puts people lives at risk.

How? Well, everybody knows . . . it slows down ambulances and fire trucks.

Vital seconds are lost because the emergency vehicles can’t travel at high speeds to revive sick people or rescue cats up trees.

Shock! Horror!

But the cat is now out of the bag.

A freedom of information request to every ambulance trust in England, Scotland and Wales found not a single instance.

Last year as COVID wrought havoc across the UK, there was a major push to make streets more amenable to active transport due to the infection risks of packed trains and buses.

Numerous bike lanes, pop-up and permanent, appeared across the country.

And the paint on the roads was hardly dry before the tabloid wingeing began—yes, you guessed right: ambulances on missions of mercy were being slowed down, and lives were in danger.

The lie was revealed by an FOI request by bike organisation Cycling UK, which found that not only did ambulance services not experience being slowed down, many were actually in favour of bike lanes.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “Cycling UK was concerned prominent members of the public, including politicians, and national media had been potentially misled to believe cycle lanes were preventing our paramedics from doing their jobs.

"Following our investigation and the positive responses we’ve received from the UK’s ambulance trusts, I am both pleased and relieved to slay these myths.

“These new cycle lanes which are helping thousands of people to travel safely, including key workers in our hospitals and paramedics, are no barrier to ambulances.”

Interestingly, one ambulance trust reported that a locked barrier on a street had impeded ambulances, but on investigation it was found that the barrier was an anti-terrorism structure and was not a part of any bike or traffic calming scheme.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.