The Daily Telegraph recently reported that Highways England are considering banning cyclists from a stretch of the A63 in Hull for safety reasons.
There have been 6 accidents involving cyclists in 5 years on the stretch, including one fatality.
Hardly surprising, as in an argument between a lorry and cyclist, there is really only one foreseeable outcome. Anyone who has travelled on the A63, which borders the Humber on its way into Hull City Centre and the Docks will know that there are plenty of large lorries and tankers to argue with, to say nothing of the volume of ordinary traffic, which is frequently at a standstill at busier times.
But is the solution to reducing accidents just to ban cyclists altogether? Cycling has many benefits. It is cheap, non-polluting, good for fitness and heart and lung health, is something a family can do together and can be fun.
The problem seems to be cyclists on this particular stretch of road indulging in activities such as time trials. This is where a cyclist gives him or herself a set time in which to cover a certain distance, with a view to improving this time. Sir Bradley Wiggins has been a participant on this road, attempting to set a record time over 10 miles back in 2015. One has to admire anyone who manages to exceed about 20 miles per hour on the A63, even on a rare good day, quite honestly.
But perhaps these activities do have to be banned, not only for the cyclists own safety, but for drivers on the same stretch who will just not be anticipating a speed machine on a road with such dense, slow moving traffic. The speed of the bikes may be vastly under-estimated when drivers are carrying out manoeuvres. The drivers just may not see them. Roads are shared by a vast number of different forms of transport and each have a duty of care to the others. But equally, each have to be aware for their own safety. There is a legal concept called “contributory negligence”, whereby a person making a claim against someone else can be deemed to have contributed to their own accident and injuries by their own negligence. Driving without a seatbelt fastened is an obvious one. Cycling without lights and without any hi-viz clothing on a dark morning or night could be another. If contributory negligence is found, then any compensation can be reduced by a significant amount.
Cycling should be promoted as a desirable activity, but it must be balanced with safety. Horse riders have a similar problem.
Many cannot, or are afraid to ride on even country roads now because of the speed and volume of traffic. Deliberate attacks on horses and riders by drivers are not unknown. They seem to feel that horses should not be on a road. But there is sometimes no choice these days if riders are to get to safe off road riding tracks. Many cyclists and horse riders now ride with “head-cams”; cameras positioned on riding hats and safety helmets which can help establish the circumstances where an accident occurs and whether the accident could have been avoided.
We need to campaign for more and better safe areas and tracks where both cyclists and horse riders can enjoy their respective activities without putting themselves or others in danger. Drivers need educating in awareness of cyclists and riders, their limitations and vulnerabilities, but also their right to be on the road just as much as cars and lorries. It doesn’t take much to show a bit of common sense and for all to respect other road users and fulfil their duty of care.