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Watch for bikes, says Mike

25 February, 2004
Watch for bikes, says Mike

Green MP Mike Ward has called on traffic planners, government agencies and police to adopt a much sharper focus on cycle safety and motorists' awareness and attitudes toward cyclists.

Mr Ward, the Green spokesperson for fitness and leisure, was reminded of the perilous state of cyclist safety when his executive assistant, Laura Beck, was involved in a collision with a car door this morning.

"Laura's crash, like most of those affecting cyclists, is unlikely to make headlines, appear in any statistics or result in a prosecution." Said Mr Ward. "She was lucky. She is likely to be sore for a day or two, has missed a couple of hours at work and is likely to feel nervous next time she climbs on to her cycle.

"It appears the driver did not check before opening the door with Laura just one metre from impact. While this driver is likely to pay more attention in future, cyclists desperately need pre-emptive measures to avoid this sort of thing happening.

"Statistics demonstrate that cycling is a risky business but only offer a glimpse of the real problem. Most accidents are not reported, only those involving motor vehicles count, cycling accounts for relatively few of the journeys taken and many of the trips are made on dedicated cycle ways.

"When you consider these factors, the bike begins to look downright lethal. Cycling ought to be a prime candidate for action on cycle safety and facilities to cut back on road injury and death statistics.

"While the dramatic decline in deaths last year, down to seven from 17 the previous year, is good news, those statistics only tell a part of the story and are small comfort to the families of the seven who died last year.

"There are many more who were seriously injured or the thousands who are bruised and frightened and those who are just too terrified to climb onto their bikes. The guidelines in the road code are a good start but they need to be strengthened, focused on driver education and featured in safety campaigns."

"We also need to improve the cycleway network and encourage cyclists to be more proactive for their safety. Cycleways that just peter out or that are much too narrow and the reluctance of cyclists to report their accidents simply compound the problem."

Mr Ward said the focus should be on encouraging motorists to be more aware of those they share the road with. "I don't believe that motorists don't care, they just don't care enough, and they don't understand that cyclists must have their space," he said.

"I'm not interested in prosecutions but motorists need to be reminded that cyclists occupy the bit of road that is most likely to get dug up, have the roughest surface, have car doors opening on to it and the most reasons for cyclists to get the wobbles or take evasive action."


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