Essex: Dramatic rise in the number of serious cycling road accidents

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The number of cyclists either killed or seriously injured on Essex’s roads has risen by a staggering 60% in a year, according to latest figures.

Data from Essex Highways has revealed there was an increase from 41 cyclists killed or seriously injured in the county in 2011 to 67 casualties in 2012. Of the incidents in 2012, three resulted in fatalities.

Cyclist groups say the increase is down to more cyclists on the roads but also a lack of “respect” from car and van drivers.

However, Essex county councillor Rodney Bass, who is cabinet member for highways and transportation and chairman of the Essex Casualty Reduction Board said there was a need for “give and take” from both cyclists and car drivers.

He said: “It is unclear at this stage whether these figures are a statistical quirk or a developing trend.

“But what is clear we have a rise in the number of cyclists but also a rise in the number of road vehicles using roads in Essex – and the two don’t mix well.

“What we need is for drivers to be more mindful of cyclists but for cyclists to also ensure they wear high-visibility vests and hard hats, and use cycles lane where they are available rather than going on busy roads.” The figures for Essex were taken from a national study released by the Department of Transport, which showed the trend countrywide is also towards an increase in the number of serious road incidents involving cyclists.

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The number of pedal cyclists killed nationally rose by 10% from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012, while the number of pedal cyclists reported to the police as seriously injured in a road accident increased by 4% to 3,222. The report says across the country there is “a well-established upward trend in pedal cyclist casualties” and that this is the eighth year that the number of seriously injured cyclist casualties has increased.

Co-Founder of Braintree Velo cycle road racing club, Dave Terry, said car drivers need to be more aware of how vulnerable cyclists are.

He said: “Car drivers today are cocooned from the world and have less of an idea of how unprotected cyclists are. They might slow down and make space for someone riding a horse but they don’t do the same for cyclists.”

Mr Terry said fortunately no riders at his club had had serious injuries and that in recent years there had only been “one or two minor scrapes with cars”.

He added: “I think it would be a good idea for all drivers to have to cycle through a town centre as part of their test, as they do in some countries like Switzerland.

“There does seem to be more respect for cyclists in some European countries – such as Belgium and France – where people go out of their way to ensure people on bikes are looked after.

“It’s a question of education and for people to realise that roads are for everyone - cars cyclist and horse-riders.”

The Essex Highways figures showed at that serious cycling accidents made up 11% of all serious road incidents in Essex last year where overall the number of serious casualties in Essex fell 4.4% to 602 in 2012.