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Paul Fretwell’s cycle safety blog for road safety week

23rd October 2015

This is probably quite a good moment to focus on cycle safety. It is a sad fact that far too many cyclists are being killed and seriously injured (KSI) on our roads. Taking the 2014 figures for Hampshire, 20% of the 1063 people killed or seriously injured were cyclists.

My cycle commute between Portsmouth and Chichester straddles the county boundary and is most certainly not without risk. Despite the best efforts of organisations such Sustrans (and its supporters) who are responsible for developing and implementing the National Cycle Network, in my experience there are too many sections of cycle routes that are very far from ideal. For instance, Harts Farm Way just south of Havant is classified as a ‘traffic free route on the National Cycle Network’. However, on a 300 metre section of this route, cyclists have to cross 6 sets of give-way lines which mark the entrances to various industrial units. In consequence, a lot of cyclists travelling at 15 to 20mph end up ‘taking a chance’ or else avoid the cycle route/pavement and ride on the road itself. This rather defeats the whole object of the cycle path! I know that these turnings are really dangerous, because I came across the aftermath of a turning lorry verses cycle collision there within the last 12 months.

We cyclists need all the help we can get to be safe. We don’t need motorists (as happened to me this morning) overtaking at speed, slamming on the brakes and then making an immediate hard left turn, cutting us up in the process.

Of course, we cyclists also have to help ourselves, following good practice and advice re helmets, lights, high visibility gear, not overtaking on the inside or riding through red lights etc.

I very much encourage a frank and open debate about safe cycling in the context of road safety for all; cyclists, motorcyclists, drivers and pedestrians. Many of us use most if not all of these forms of transport, and we can hopefully see things from the other’s perspective, without getting carried away or seeing the ‘red mist’.

I think there is a debate to be had as to the priority to be given to cyclists, and just how far the question of cycle safety is up our political and social agenda. It is generally accepted that cycling is not regarded as ‘mainstream’ in the way it is, for instance, in the Netherlands. Here, vastly more resources are put in to developing and running a very safe and dedicated cycle network. I suspect that if Dutch cyclists had a ride along Harts Farm Way, they would raise an eyebrow.

Cycling is here to stay. It is healthy (although the recent VW diesel scandal highlights a potentially serious health concern over harmful gas and particulate emissions), but I know that many cyclists get put off cycling on the roads because of safety concerns.

I can only hope that Road Safety Week serves to highlight these concerns, foster awareness, understanding and higher safety standards. It would be great if this could move higher up the Government’s list of priorities. Our cash starved local authorities are under serious pressure.

I do hope that the KSI statistics for 2015 are substantially better than 2014, but sadly I rather doubt it. As a personal injury lawyer specialising in head and other serious injury claims almost every new instruction that I have received over the last few months has involved a KSI rider on two wheels; motorbike or cycle. I see the devastating consequences of what is very often momentary carelessness by drivers and I for one look extra carefully, time and time again, whenever I pull out of a junction or cross a roundabout. I know just how easy it can be for a driver to ‘miss’ someone on two wheels.

Paul Fretwell, solicitor. Partner, personal injury department.

General, George Ide, News, Personal Injury Blog
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