CYCLISTS are being urged to take extra care on the roads this summer after it was revealed that a third of all bike accidents in the North-East occur between July and September.
As the Tour de France is set to get underway in the north this weekend and theschool summer holidays are almost upon us, Road Safety GB North East urged pedal cyclists to wear helmets and be aware of the dangers, and reminded drivers to be vigilant.
Between 2009 and 2013, there were 2,971 pedal cyclists injured in collisions on theregion’s roads. Of those, 29 were killed and 467 were seriously injured, with the remainder suffering slight injuries. During that period, there has been a seven percent rise in total cyclist casualties.
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However, the road safety group believes the casualty figure will be substantially higher, especially for those people only slightly injured, as many incidents may never have been reported to the police.
Although pedal cyclists account for only one percent of total miles travelled on North-East roads, they account for 11 per cent of serious injuries and nine per cent of fatalities.
And figures show that almost a quarter of people injured on bikes are aged under 16, with 90 percent of those children not wearing helmets at the time.Paul Watson, Chairman of Road Safety GB North East and a Road Safety Officer in both Durham and Hartlepool, said the summer months always saw more collisions involving cyclists.
“Pedal cyclist casualties increase through the middle of the year, peaking in July, and we expect this trend to be exaggerated further this year as the Tour deFrance comes to the north and encourages more people to take to their bikes,” said Mr Watson.
“We are great advocates of cycling because it’s an excellent way of staying fit and healthy and enables you to enjoy the outdoors, but all of that is meaningless if you are seriously injured or even killed.
“Bike helmets are proven to help protect people from serious head injuries, so wecan’t stress enough how important they are, but cyclists must also ensure they are fully versed on the Highway Code and should be aware of the dangers around them.
“However, drivers also have to share responsibility and be on the lookout for people on bikes. Cyclists are incredibly vulnerable and may not get a second chance. Regardless of who is at fault, I don’t think anyone would want the death or injury of a cyclist on their conscience.”
While Newcastle records the highest number of total cyclist casualties, followed by County Durham and Northumberland, it is Stockton, Northumberland and Sunderland which have experienced the highest fatality rate.
Figures show that men account for 87 percent of all cyclist casualties and just under half were injured in collisions that were probably not their fault, with two thirds of other vehicles involved being at least partially to blame.
The majority of accidents occurred because either the cyclist or the driver failed to look properly, demonstrating the need for all road users to look out foreach other. Other contributing factors are cyclists entering the road from the pavement, being reckless and failing to judge the other vehicle’s path or speed.
Mr Watson said all schools in the region could offer their pupils cycle training through the Bikeability course, which is organised and funded through their local authorities. It provides a series of practical sessions to make young people aware of the dangers and to ensure they are trained in safe cycling, including riding on the road, signaling, overtaking and managing junctions.
For more information about Bikeability, people should contact their local authorities.
This week, Year 6 pupils from St Teresa’s School in Hartlepool took their bikes into school to take part in the course.
Pupil Courtney Palmer, 11, said: “It’s been really good fun. I’ve learned how to signal and how to stop safely, and how to go from the path to the road. I think I’ve learned a lot.”
And Tobie Robson, 11, said: “I have enjoyed cycling between the cones the best. I love going out on my BMX, but I think I will be a better cyclist now.”
Teacher Amanda Palmer said the cycling course was invaluable.
She added: “The pupils have really enjoyed the course because it’s learning in a fun way. The skills they are picking up will hopefully stay with them for life. With the Tour de France starting this weekend and the school summer holidays almost upon us, young people will be going out on their bikes more than usual, so reminding everyone of road safety is vital.”
For more information about Road Safety GB NorthEast and the cycling safety campaign go to http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/regions/r3.html Follow the campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RSGBNE or on Twitter @RSGB_NE