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

by Simon_MacMichael   July 1, 2010  

Cat and Fiddle (picture credit- Philip Halling, Wikimedia Commons).jpg

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?
 

8 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

don't usually have a problem but then is either very early or very late when we hit the fiddle, I wouldn't like to do it during the day. not that you have to as there are much nicer/harder ways to the top.

posted by mrchrispy [265 posts]
1st July 2010 - 13:03

like this
Like (2)

Quote ".......supporting the theory that it’s not necessarily the road itself that is dangerous, but the person riding or driving it."

At last a bit of commonsense. Roads are not dangerous, it's the way that drivers/riders misuse them and ignore the needs of other road users that make them so.

I know the piece of A285 very well. It looks flat and straight but goes through a number of dips and subtle kinks, which along with the side roads and un-marked turnings add to the risk.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [521 posts]
1st July 2010 - 15:33

like this
Like (2)

I had the displeasure of doing an Audax in Sth Derbyshire recently - motorbikes were a complete nightmare, really dangerous. Part of the driving test should be to stand still while having a motorbike whizz past you at 80 mph and miss you by three feet. Yeah, they are so 'in control'.

3 points:

Yes I have owned MBikes so I get the thrill.
Reminds me how walkers see US out on the trail!
He who rides by the wall shall die by the wall - go to a track instead...

Rant over.

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [229 posts]
1st July 2010 - 15:38

like this
Like (4)

I know the Cat and Fiddle A537 fairly well and was there last week. Yes it is a challenge. I note that the piece does not mention the large numbers of heavy tipper trucks going to and from the many quarries in the area. One time I do remember seeing a tipper truck being driven at and most probably well beyond the speed limit along the A537, which I'm sure you can imagine left no margin for error by its driver or other road users. There are quite a few collisions on the route, which the piece also does not mention. realeased police figures don't give details of these but I imagine several would involve tipper trucks.

It's a road to treat with caution for sure. I've ridden my Ducati along there many times and while I don't hang about, I don't push my bike anywhere near its limits as I know my limits as a rider. I'd be interested to know how many of the people who are killed on motorcycles on that route are people who have recently returned to riding bikes or have recently passed their test and gone out and bought a high performance sports bike that they ride at weekends only. I see quite a few of these people on the road and their riding skills are very obviously lacking in many instances - a quick glance at the rear tyre will reveal how much unworn tyre there is and it gives you a rough and ready indication as to the rider's skill level. I've done a few track days by the way and I tend to agree that the racetrack is the best place for superfast motorcycle riding. I enjoy riding a high performance motorcycle but that doesn't mean I hammer around everywhere I go, see the need to or believe that doing so is safe. Then again I've been riding for over 25 years and clock a reasonable annual mileage mostly by commuting so I don't fall into the category of inexperienced weekend rider with a newly acquired hyperbike he/she can barely control.

As to the safety measures on the route there are plenty more that could be installed, particularly crash cushions around some of the dry stone walls or rock faces.

I drove it by car this time and while I did want to take a bicycle, I simply didn't have the space.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
1st July 2010 - 15:50

like this
Like (3)

To those who know the Cat & Fiddle well, a contentious question.

Do you think that the safety measures/resurfacing etc have made the road safer; i.e. you're not so likely to injure yourself if you come off while travelling at a speed inappropriate for the conditions, or have they made it more dangerous in that drivers/riders take more risks because they think they'll get away with it?

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [521 posts]
1st July 2010 - 16:06

like this
Like (0)

Having watched the video clip I can say the rider does stuff I wouldn't. He crosses unbroken lines, overtakes on a blind bend, pops a wheelie and repeatedly rides way too close to vehicles in front. It seems as if the red mist descends and he throws caution to the winds, becoming more extreme as he goes. On the other hand, the camera is low-mounted so the speed may not be as high as appears. I'd say it's still too fast for his skills though, judging by the overtaking for instance and his line through the corners wasn't that good quite a lot of the time either. I do know that road, believe me. He started from the Macclesfield end but didn't ride the whole route to Buxton before returning incidentally. Interestingly the clip shows how poor the surface is in many spots. I saw the council's claims with regard to the resurfacing but if you ask me, it needs doing again and properly this time. When I was there last week some strips of the surface were in very poor condition and a lot of the anti skid surface has been worn away so the council's claims over the resurfacing are simply not true. I expect that like on so much of the UK road network, the surfacing work was done at the lowest possible cost, using antiquated techniques and poor methodology.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
2nd July 2010 - 9:30

like this
Like (3)

jova - not a contentious question in my book. No, I don't think the safety measures have made a blind bit of difference to the speed motorcycle riders and performance car drivers attain on the route. To be honest, the safety measures that are there are minimal and the local authority could do a good deal more using comparatively low cost, available technology that has been proven in other European countries where the safety of road users is taken rather more seriously in comparison with the laissez fair British approach. Those wanting to push the envelope have done so regardless for years. Speeds have increased as vehicle technology has improved. The A537 has become very well known in motorcycling terms as a road to test skills. I strongly believe the continued increase in biker fatality rates is directly linked to the increased numbers of inexperienced older riders buying very high performance motorcycles for the first time. The Direct Access scheme for people wanting to enter motorcycling and ride large and powerful motorcycles immediately after passing their test is in my mind a safety disaster and represents a major part of the problem - it encourges riders to believe they have the skills. A modern high performance motorcycle has very high performance indeed, with a power to weigh ratio greater than that of a Bugatti Veyron for isntance, and at a mere fraction of the cost. At the moment I have no way of proving my theory, other than by what I've seen. However I did discuss the subject of such inexperienced riders with an expert in the field, who is himself a motorbike racer and he said he agreed and is working on research at the moment. The thing that concerns me about the reporting over the A537 is that nowhere has this factor of inexperienced riders on high performance motorcycles been discussed. It concerns me as I fear the Department for Transport will, with the lack of suitable data, introduce blanket restrictions on all motorcyclists that will affect people like me who do not ride at excessive speeds on public roads, while failing to directly address the problem of those who do, and specifically the many inexperience bikers who think having a Direct Access pass is a passport to riding a powerful bike at speed safely on a public road.

The issue of speed cameras provides a good comparison. These were introduced to reduce vehicle speeds across the road network as a cheap way of reducing policing/enforcement while addressing safety. They haven't worked. This is because speed cameras cannot detect unsafe vehicles, drivers under the influence of drink or drugs, people tailgating, or many other issues that affect road safety. Another comparison would be with calls for cyclists being required to wear helmets - there is no evidence that doing so will boost safety and in fact there is some research to suggest the contrary.

Just a point though, how many collisions are there between cyclists and motorcyclists in the Derbyshire Peaks? I haven't seen figures for these but I have for the entire UK road network and the numbers are very low indeed. With regard to the real threat to cyclists in the Derbyshire Peaks or anywhere in the UK for that matter, HGVs, white van man and careless car drivers (and BMW owners in particular) are the real threat.

I'd be curious how many experienced motorcycling/cycling/car driving people would agree with me.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
2nd July 2010 - 9:36

like this
Like (2)

I used to cycle the Cat and Fiddle most weekends a few years back before I moved away to uni, and never had a problem. The only thing vaguely scary was the large trucks going past, not so much motorcycles. Oh, and the people in the pub giving me evils for wearing lycra and drinking water..

Rouleur in Denial.

posted by JoshOwenMorris [4 posts]
3rd July 2010 - 0:17

like this
Like (2)