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SPECIAL REPORT - Steep rise in county cycling crashes

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Stark figures uncovered by the Harrogate Advertiser Series reveal that the number of serious cycle crashes in the county is up more than 70 per cent in the past five years. RUBY KITCHEN reports.

Cyclists are facing more dangers than ever in North Yorkshire, new statistics show, with a steep rise in the number of crashes recorded in the run up to the Tour de France.

In the past five years, there has been a 70 per cent leap in figures recording major crashes on the county’s roads, with a 30 per cent rise in the last two years alone.

Now, in a bid to combat the issue and keep cyclists safe, a safety campaign has been launched by the county council and 95 Alive to raise awareness with local groups.

“The fact is there are more cyclists on our roads than ever before, and more casualties,” said Honor Byford, team leader for road safety at North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).

“It’s hard to say if that’s down to more people cycling on the Tour route, but we are doing this campaign regardless.

“If we can all learn to share the road it will make one hell of a difference.”

The figures, revealed after an investigation by the ‘Advertiser series, show that there has been a 17 per cent rise in the number of serious cycling casualties - defined as anything from a broken finger to life-changing injuries - in the last year alone.

In the year prior to that, there was a 12 per cent rise. And while the figures have been fairly stable since 2002, the county has seen this steady rise since 2010.

This, say NYCC, could in part be down to the legacy of the Tour de France, with more cyclists coming to our county’s roads.

But it is also down to a rise in popularity of cycling overall, with more people buying bikes, and more cyclists on the road, cycling more often.

And, said Mrs Byford, police are now tracking incidents more, recording every crash reported to them regardless of injury.

“We do not have statistics to tell us how many cyclists used the Tour route roads before the announcement, nor afterwards, so we cannot calculate an accurate rate,” she said.

“That said, since we do know that the figures show a numerical increase, it is sufficient for us to want to do what we can to reduce that number so that more people can enjoy cycling in North Yorkshire without coming to grief.”

The campaign was launched ahead of the arrival of the Tour by NYCC working with the safety partnership 95 Alive, targeting cyclists, clubs, charities and road users.

Regional authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber have created a safety app, led by the City of York council.

And a poster campaign to ‘Think Bike’ has been revealed, with poster billboards on bus shelters in Harrogate and on busy cycle routes.

“We are monitoring everything that happens,” said Mrs Byford. “As long as it’s reported to police, we will know about it.”

Cyclists are vulnerable, she added, as they are easier for drivers to miss and it is harder to gauge their distance and speed.

“Take another look. Remember there may be a cyclist there,” she said, urging drivers to be careful and ‘Think Bike’.

“And for cyclists - being visible really can make a difference. When you’re on a bike, you can see everything.

“But you’re not nearly as visible as you think you are.”

This must be a long-term campaign, she said, changing attitudes towards cyclists and being more aware.

“There’s not one thing that one person can do to fix this. There isn’t one cure all solution,” she said.

“But the responsibility lies with us all to just be more patient and aware.”

KEY FACTS

70 per cent rise in the number of serious crashes in North Yorkshire in the past five years, from 20 in the first six months of 2009 to 34 in the same period for 2014

30 per cent rise in serious crashes in last two years, from 26 to 34

One in five UK cyclists have suffered an injury in the saddle

Almost half required a trip to A&E or a hospital stay

A third of cyclists said their injury was caused by a crash with a car

A quarter by crashes with other cyclists

Broken arms or wrists most common injury (50 per cent) followed by broken fingers (33 per cent)

Young people most likely to be hurt - a third of survey respondents were aged 18-24

Sales of cycling helmets are up 33 per cent in Harrogate in

the weeks since Le Tour

Yorkshire is said to be safer than most areas, with just 12 per cent of cyclists reported an injury on the county’s roads

(According to data provided by North Yorkshire County Council, North Yorkshire Police, Sovereign Health Care, and ecommerce company MetaPack)

COMMENT

British Cycling campaigns manager, Martin Key said: “Contrary to public perception, cycling is a safe activity. Official figures repeatedly suggest that the general risk of cycling is very low with more people injured while gardening than cycling.

“However, more needs to be done to ensure that an increase in numbers of people cycling does not lead to a greater number of accidents. Major events like the Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games taking place in Britain provide us with an unrivalled opportunity to get more people on bikes.

“We must change road layouts, reduce speeds, improve infrastructure and create desirable cycle lanes if we are to reduce people’s concerns about riding in traffic.

“That is why we are calling on both local and national government to make a sustained investment and long-term commitment to cycling by adopting Choose Cycling - our 10-point plan to make Britain a true cycling nation.”

WHAT WOULD HELP? WE ASKED TWITTER

Steve Hall said: “I’ve been clipped and knocked off. Near misses happen a lot over here - never had a problem in Europe.”

Peter Manning said: “I’ve had loads of near misses, knocked off once in York. Wife got knocked off in Starbeck. There’s no easy answer. Investment in education

and infrastructure, along with a change in attitudes is needed.”

A man giving his Twitter name as @merkurho said: “Good road positioning is what keeps a cyclist safe, eg knowing when to take up a lane. Those who ALWAYS ride by the kerb ‘invite’ close passes. The real answer to cycling safety is not high visibility vests or helmets. It’s segregated cycle lanes, as per Dutch or Danes.”

Linda Cheung said: “Proper cycle gear, educating cyclists and drivers on etiquette and highway code, helmets and reflective gear compulsory.”

Baltzersens Scandinavian cafe said: “Better bike lanes and less potholes!”

Harry Barlsak ‏said the problem was cyclists: “Need to use lights and pay attention to rules of road. Traffic lights are for them too. I’ve had many near misses.”

Ricki Tomlinson ‏said: “Education on the highway code would be nice.”

Richard Johnson said: “I have been knocked off my bike and near misses are quite regular. I’d say people looking where they are going would help a lot.”

What do you think? Have your say and join the debate online at www.harro gateadvertiser.co.uk, email news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk or write to the Editor at 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate HG3 1RZ.

 

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