An MP from Southampton has said that his comments had been “misinterpreted” after he responded to the death of a cyclist in collision with a lorry by saying that cyclists should “consider when and where they cycle” and “stick to routes with cycle lanes on them”.
Royston Smith, the Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, made the comments after 64-year-old cyclist Jon Morris was killed in a collision with a lorry on the A3025 in Woolston on Wednesday. The driver of the lorry was arrested by police on suspicion of causing death by careless driving, and has been released pending investigation.
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Smith offered his condolences to Mr Morris’s family, but said that cyclists should use their own judgement to decide which roads it is safe to use.
“The risk factor involved when cyclists use busy roads is greater compared to using country lanes. Sometimes cyclists must use their judgement and try and stick to routes that have cycle lanes on them,” Mr Smith, who in June called for £11.5m which could have been used to build cycle lanes as part of Southampton’s Cycling Strategy to be “reprioritised”, told the Southern Daily Echo.
“Some roads have been made and improved to ensure cycle access is better and the roads are wider, but we have to acknowledge that it’s dangerous for cyclists on certain roads and that they may need to consider when and where they cycle. The cycling lobby won’t like this but we have to do something to make the roads safer.”
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Local cycling campaigners were quick to offer criticism of Smith’s remarks, including Colin McQueen from Clean Air Southampton.
“A bicycle is a vehicle on the road, not causing the problem. Bad driving is the root of the problem. There have been five deaths in and around Southampton, with some occurring on quiet country lanes in the New Forest,” McQueen said.
“Mr Smith says cyclists shouldn’t use busy roads but two people died on those quiet roads which were caused by bad driving.”
Jon Bingham, from the Southampton Cycling Campaign, was also damning of Smith’s response to Mr Morris’s death and his attitude towards cyclists.
“I just think he needs to go away and get his facts right because he is talking nonsense. He seems to think cars are the most important things on the road and everyone should just get out of their way,” Bingham said.
Responding to the criticism, Smith said that he was “disappointed” with the reactions of campaigners, and his remarks had been “misinterpreted”.
“Ultimately the message I was trying to get across was that I want cyclists to be careful for their own safety,” Smith said. “I just think that we all have to be responsible for our own safety on the roads because they are dangerous.”