A Surge in the Popularity of Cycling.
However, as more people take to two wheeled transport, there is a call for other road users to be more aware and tolerant of cyclists to ensure safer roads for everyone.
Along with the increase in popularity as a sport and form of exercise, there is a campaign to encourage the cycling as a green mode of transport for commuting or getting around town. This inevitably means an increase in the number of inexperienced cyclists on the road – or cyclists inexperienced in dealing with city traffic. The “Boris Bikes” Barclays Cycle Hire scheme in London made the headlines for the wrong reasons recently, due to the unfortunate death of one user in a collision with a lorry.
Cyclists are very exposed on the road and it is not only inexperienced cyclists who are at risk – as the recent tragic death of an experienced commuter-cyclist in Manchester showed.
According to provisional figures from the Department of Transport, the number of deaths on British roads fell in 2012. However, the number of cyclists killed in accidents actually rose for the same period.
Problems on the Road.
The exposed nature of cyclists, combined with busy traffic and a road system that doesn’t offer the best cycling conditions cause safety issues for both cyclists and drivers. Friction between the two groups can occur.
Jason Wiltshire is a member of NW Law’s Road Traffic Accident department. He is a keen cyclist and also club secretary at the Lancashire Road Club, one of the largest cycling clubs in the UK. He has offered some opinions and advice to cyclists and motorists.
“It does seem that the majority of drivers have become more used to and accepting of cyclists in the past few years – and particularly since the Olympic and Tour de France successes. However, I have the view that those drivers who are not as tolerant actually appear to have become more aggressive than ever!”
One particular issue that seems to enrage drivers is that of cyclists riding side-by-side.
“People will shout angrily out of their windows at cyclists, saying that they are not allowed to do that – in fact they are allowed.”
“Some people are ill advised as to what is legal and simply do not wish to be slowed down.”
So, what is the best way that cyclists can stay safe on the road and avoid any potential issues with drivers?
“Cyclists can certainly help themselves when riding,” says Jason. “One of the best means is to never assume that drivers have seen you when they are waiting to pull from junctions. When commuting in busy areas, it is a good idea to reduce speed in cycle lanes. Remember, cycle lanes give additional space, but they are NOT a distinct and separate lane – they do not cocoon you from danger.”
Jason also recommends wearing high-visibility clothing, to help motorists spot you sooner.
And as for the motorists?
“One can only ask that they take a look at some of our continental neighbours, where cyclists are not only tolerated, but encouraged and given space. Motorists forget that we have little or no protection when compared to a car and incidents/collisions nearly always result in serious injuries to the cyclist.”
Tolerance from both sides appears to be the issue. In a transport culture that has long-neglected cycling as a form of everyday transport, there are many drivers that are not used encountering cyclists on journeys. Cyclists must be aware of that – as much as drivers must be aware that cyclists are on the road.
“Cyclists and motorists can easily co-exist if both are a little more tolerant of each other.”
Jason Wiltshire joined NW Law in July 2013 and is a member of our Road Traffic Accident Department. He has 15 years experience dealing with large loss RTA claims and motorbike and cycling accident claims.