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Cyclists face 'killing machines' on the roads, warns police chief

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 16, 2013

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We are urged to cycle for our health – yet the dangers are obvious. Margaret Davis reports.

After five cycling deaths in nine days in London the issue of bicycles versus cars is back at the top of the road safety agenda.

And it is not just in London that people on two wheels are at risk. The towns and cities of the Westcountry – and the narrow rural lanes – also claim the lives of too many cyclists.

Recent provisional Government figures for national road casualties showed that the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured rose 4% in the period April-June 2013 compared with the total for the same period in 2012.

Total pedal cyclist casualties – killed, seriously injured and slightly injured – were 12% up in the second quarter of 2013 compared with the period April-June 2012.

The Department for Transport pointed out that the exceptionally wet weather in the April to June period last year may have been at least partly responsible for the rise in cyclist casualties.

The department's figures also showed that total pedal cyclist casualties for the 12 months ending June 2013 were 1% down on the total for the 12 months ending June 2012.

Now Britain's most senior police officer has joined the discussion – which has been raging on radio phone ins for the last two days, and warned that large vehicles can be "killing machines" and cyclists can find themselves in the path of a lorry or bus with "one wobble"

Speaking in the wake of the spate of bike deaths Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said drivers and cyclists need to think about how they use the road.

He said: "It's a tragedy that we've had so many deaths in the last few days.

"I think overall it looks as though there are fewer cycle deaths per cycle journey, but that's no comfort to the poor families who've lost someone.

"We've all got to think about the way that we drive and the way that we cycle. It is difficult for the drivers.

"They're big vehicles, they can't always see out properly but they've got to take a little bit more care. When you've got such a big vehicle, then obviously they can be killing machines.

"Equally, if you've got your own cycle, you've got to abide by the rules of the road and you've got to think about your own safety."

In London the Metropolitian Police runs a scheme called Exchanging Places where cyclists and lorry drivers swap to understand how each views the road.

Sir Bernard said: "We've got the Met's Exchanging Places scheme and that's where cyclists and lorry drivers swap places and see the roads from each other's perspective and 95% of the cyclists who took part said they would never have understood just how difficult it is for lorry drivers. There's huge blind spots.

"But equally, the drivers have got to think that but for a wobble, they could be in front of a vehicle. I think for many people, we've all got to think carefully about how we drive and how we cycle."

It is in the capital where the problem is most acute. A total of 13 bike users have been killed on London's roads so far this year.

The latest victim, 24-year-old Venera Minakhmetova from Bethnal Green, east London, was killed in an accident involving a lorry at the Bow roundabout in east London during the rush hour on Wednesday.

It is thought she and the lorry were travelling west along the A11 when the collision occurred. The male lorry driver stopped at the scene and spoke to police. There have been no arrests.

Just a few minutes after the Bow death, a male cyclist, believed to be in his 30s, was badly injured in a collision with a lorry in Millbank, central London. He remains in a critical condition.

The previous day IT consultant and courier Roger William De Klerk, 43, was fatally injured when he was hit by a bus as he rode his bike near East Croydon train station.

Lord Adonis, who was transport secretary in the last Labour government, and RAC technical director David Bizley called for a review of cycling superhighways in the capital, while charity CTC said it was "sickened" by a perceived failure to protect cyclists.

Meanwhile a Parliamentary safety group is urging London Mayor Boris Johnson to hold a safety summit.

There is "a need for urgent action", said the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) which has written to Mr Johnson.

Pacts executive director David Davies said: "The boom in cycling in London has many benefits and we support it but the tragic events of the past few days show that there is a need for urgent action.

"We are therefore calling on the mayor to convene a cycling safety summit to see what can be done immediately to make cyclists safer.

"It is essential that actions are based on good evidence and well targeted. We must avoid knee-jerk reactions and measures that might be counterproductive."

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2 comments

  • Totally Taxis  |  December 12 2013, 3:50PM

    Yes . High viz clothing, insurance and test on highway code.

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  • Tony248  |  November 16 2013, 10:45AM

    Bicycles are second only to motorcycles as being the most dangerous form of transport for the user but for different reasons. Unless and until the Department for Transport improves road layouts to make them safer and keep them away from other traffic then I will regard them as decidedly unhealthy. If I want exercise I will use the cycling machines in my local gym. There's a much smaller chance of ending up underneath a lorry there.....

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