Cat & Fiddle once again tops list of Britain's most persistently dangerous roads (+Video)
Road one of Britain's safest once thrill-seeking bikers excluded, says report
More than half of Britain’s ten most persistently dangerous roads are in and around the Peak District National Park, according to a new report compiled by EuroRAP and the Road Safety Foundation, with the A537, well known to cyclists as the Cat & Fiddle, once again topping the list.
The Road Safety Foundation says that the single carriageway road, which has a speed limit of 50mph, is particularly hazardous for motorcyclists, with police records showing that “the vast majority of casualties were motorcyclists, from outside the local area, male, and with an average age of 35.”
It added that factors contributing to the road’s danger were its “severe bends, steep falls from the carriageway and is edged by dry-stone walls or rock face for almost all of its length,” and added that the number of fatalities and serious collisions there had seen a 127% rise from 15 to 34 between 2006 and 2008.
Nine of the ten most persistently dangerous roads were found to be in the North West, Yorkshire or Derbyshire, with the A285 from Chichester to Petworth in West Sussex the only road featuring on the list from elsewhere in the country, with the full list as follows:
A537 Macclesfield to Buxton - Cheshire/Derbyshire
A5012 Pikehall to Matlock - Derbyshire
A621 Baslow to Totley - Derbyshire/South Yorkshire
A625 Calver to Sheffield - South Yorkshire
A54 Congleton to Buxton - Derbyshire
A581 Rufford to Chorley - Lancashire
A5004 Whaley Bridge to Buxton - Derbyshire
A675 Blackburn to Preston - Lancashire
A61 Barnsley to Wakefield - South/West Yorkshire
A285 Chichester to Petworth - West Sussex
The report found that once motorcyclist casualties were stripped out of the equation, the Cat & Fiddle became one of the safest roads in the country, with the A18 in East Yorkshire, which links the A16 at Ludborough with the A46 at Laceby, ranked as the most hazardous road to non-motorcycle traffic.
Again, regionally the ten most hazardous roads excluding motorcycles were concentrated across the North West, Yorkshire and Humber regions, the only road outside those making the list being the A281, linking the A23 at Pyecombe to the A272 at Cowfold in East Sussex.
According to local road safety campaigners, the Cat & Fiddle is a ride to which many bikers both from the immediate area and outside aspire, many of them pushing themselves and their machines to the limit, supporting the theory that it’s not necessarily the road itself that is dangerous, but the person riding or driving it.
Lee Murphy, Manager of the Cheshire Safer Roads Partnership, told BBC News: "The Cat & Fiddle does have a bit of a challenge mentality, and a minority do try to ride it as fast as they can.
He continued: "I think there's almost a 'badge' of 'I've ridden the Fiddle.' It's like climbing Everest or swimming the Channel; it's something that people aspire to.
"But by highlighting this each year, I suppose we're perpetrating its reputation as 'the most dangerous road in Britain," he said, adding that “if you go on YouTube, you can see lots of people are filming themselves riding that route, which is fairly unusual thing to be doing."
Not that unusual, perhaps, given the number of videos on the site – like this one, for example, which shows a biker tackling the pass with an umnmarked police car apparently by the side of the road presumably taking down details.
Cheshire Safer Roads Partnership says that it has spent around £500,000 during the past ten years in an attempt to make the road safer, including the introduction of a 50mph speed limit, new road surface, anti-skid surface on bends, average speed cameras, installing biker-friendly crash barriers and a mobile road safety campaign.
Mr Murphy said that he hoped that the fact no fatal accidents have been recorded yet this year meant that the cameras, installed in April, were starting to make a difference, although he concluded "At the end of the day, the road is a road; it's the way it's ridden that makes it dangerous. While we're never going to stop [accidents] happening, it's going ok so far this year - touch wood."
Obviously, some of the features that attract motorcyclists to routes in the Peak District such as the Cat & Fiddle are the same that appeal to many road cyclists - technical ascents and descents, with sometimes tight, sometimes sweeping bends, and glorious scenery all topped off with a pub stop at the top.
While the EuroRAP figures don't specifically address cyclists, we wonder what your experience of some of these roads is - do you find that bikers a problem when you're looking to tackle a climb or come down a descent?
And those roads apart, are there any routes that you ride regularly that you see as presenting a particular danger to cyclists, and is so, why?