Petition calls for National Escort Group to be given powers to stop traffic

Appeal launched following Junior Heffernan's death in Severn Bridge Road Race last weekend

by Simon_MacMichael   March 6, 2013  

Motorbikes (copyright Simon MacMichael)

Following the death of Herbalife Leisure Lakes rider Junior Heffernan during the Severn Bridge Road Race last weekend, a petition has been launched on the Government’s ePetition website to give the National Escort Group (NEG) powers to stop traffic during an event.

Heffernan, aged 23, was killed by an oncoming vehicle as he rounded a bend on a descent during Sunday’s race. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The NEG was set up to provide an accredited pool of motorcyclists able to help provide safety assistance on cycling events held on the public highway.

According to the British Cycling website, “NEG members may be requested to assist with a cycling road race, either working with police motorcyclists in providing a safe route for competitors, or operating where there is no police cover by assisting with the direction of the race, and complementing static marshals.”

Its members have no power to stop and direct traffic however, other than in Wales where the situation is different due to Welsh Cycling having secured accreditation under the The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS), established by the Police Reform Act 2002.

There is an explanation of how the situation in Wales operates here, and in response to a request from road.cc about whether it was looking at implementing similar measures elsewhere, British Cycling highlighted a trial it was conducting under its Keep Racing On The Roads campaign.

Last September, in an update on that initiative, British Cycling said: "We are continuing to pilot the signage scheme that gives marshals the ability to half traffic at junctions during cycle races. An additional six road race events have piloted the scheme across Thames Valley and Bedfordshire so far in 2012, along with 18 events in Essex last year [2011].

"Transport Minister Norman Baker has written to Chief Constables to ask more local authorities and police forces to consider using the sign to promote competitive road race events in their areas. ACPO’s Cycle Lead has also written to police forces instructing that usage of the sign should be considered as a tactical option.

"We will continue to engage with authorities to roll out the scheme more widely in 2013."

The petition, which has so far gained more than 3,500 signatures - 100,000 are needed for it to stand a chance of becoming law - states:

Give powers to stop vehicles to the National Escort Group

Responsible department: Department for Transport

The National Escort Group (NEG) provide safety cover for cyclists racing on the UK roads. They have no power to stop vehicles so their presence is there only cover. Following the tragic loss of a cyclist on the Severn Bridge RR I would ask that it be considered to allow the NEG powers to stop vehicles whilst the race in progress for no longer than 4-5 mins much like they do in Belgium. This will provide safer racing on the road and reduce the risk for motorist and cyclist thus allowing the Police to continue on their daily duty as the risk is drastically reduced due to the presence of the NEG in an official capacity. The NEG work closely with British Cycling and have worked on the biggest races in the UK inc the London 2012 Olympics. Simple powers of stopping vehicles WILL save lives.

The petition will remain open until 5 September 2013, and you can sign it here.
 

26 user comments

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Come on everyone. It's a one minute task that could save lives.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [551 posts]
6th March 2013 - 12:32

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I've signed Smile

posted by Roberj4 [189 posts]
6th March 2013 - 12:38

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I think they would have more credibility if their grammar was correct:

"They have no power to stop vehicles so their presence is there (sic) only cover."

Simon Mason, Kingston upon Hull

posted by swldxer [34 posts]
6th March 2013 - 12:54

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Done + tweeted.

I don't race (anymore) but it makes common sense and could potentially avoided last weekends tragedy.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [267 posts]
6th March 2013 - 13:01

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this is at least what they can do. I don't understand why the roads can't just be stopped.

posted by Karbon Kev [670 posts]
6th March 2013 - 13:03

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Where is British Cycling on this? They've had their Keep Racing on the roads campaign going nearly three years now, including at least three pilot projects which allowed marshalls to stop traffic, not sure if that included NEG. But the change needed can't simply be about the NEG. It has to extend to all race officials and volunteer marshalls.

Last update on the BC site was 2011 as far as I can see: http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/campaigning_racing_on_the_road

BC needs to be pushing much harder than it has been with the DCMS and DfT in my opinion, because that is where change will come from ultimately. Epetitions are up there with Early Day Motions in terms of their actual effectiveness in bringing about meaningful change.

http://www.chasingwheels.com - Chasing Wheels, the journal of Britain's least competitive cyclist

posted by leguape [38 posts]
6th March 2013 - 13:06

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Done.

cidermart's picture

posted by cidermart [460 posts]
6th March 2013 - 13:21

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I have to stickup for BC on this, from what I'm aware of, they are fighting the corner for racing and road closures as well as they can.

The sticking point is down to one simple thing: money.

If the Police done this job, as they should do by rights, then racing would be safer and better regulated as well as more wide spread in the UK.

They don't because they price themselves out of the job and they don't have the manpower to do it due to Govt influence. Continued reductions in police numbers is never going to improve a system that already failed due to money alone.

NEG riders, of which I am one, volunteer their time to help improve safety for races when done in full cooperation of the local police, race organisers, Commissaires, static marshalls and riders themselves. If one element fails, so does the effect either body can have on safety.

This will never be a fix to a problem in one simple law change. It's a major leap in the right direction though.

Forget what they do abroad, it's society that is the negative influence and its already proven that in the UK, drivers need to be saved from their own actions and will blame whoever if that doesn't happen.

The trial use of CSAS static marshals has made a difference, yet even in that role, more needs to be done. I understand this is now being rolled out throughout the country.

That's a big step in the right direction and a major change in stance by the ACPO as a body. Their fear on this NEG role is based on it being seen as 'private policing' risking jobs. They just don't appreciate that these jobs never existed to be lost and won't ever exist nationwide, or more importantly, their un-willingness to accept change is putting lives at risk almost directly.

100,000 signitures will elevate this to a position above ACPO influence and fast track beyond their issues.

Safety first. Money doesn't save lives.

posted by Farky [179 posts]
6th March 2013 - 13:31

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Wise words Farky. I would like to extend thanks for your work as NEG as well.

In Wales the NEG have the power to stop traffic. I spent last season racing in the South, South West & Wales regions. The races in Wales were such a pleasure to race in, the difference is so marked it is almost unbelievable for such a small change. You can argue that the pilot work has been done in Wales as well so roll out could be quick to the UK.

Closed road racing is still a pipe dream because of costs, driving racing on to purpose built circuits would severely compromise the quality of racing for the grass roots of cycling and in doing so the quality of UK professional cyclists.

I would like to see the figures for the cost argument (undeniably it will be expensive) but let’s face it, British Cycling don't particularly scrimp on money in the hunt for gold medals. *If* cash is required for safety improvement they should give it the time of day and consider it very carefully.

posted by alwaysapleasure [16 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:00

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Farky - Do you know if there is anything you can volunteer to do at races for NEG if you aren't a motorcyclist?

Apologies if that appears to be a daft question.

posted by farrell [1394 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:17

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swldxer wrote:
I think they would have more credibility if their grammar was correct:

"They have no power to stop vehicles so their presence is there (sic) only cover."

Sorry about the typo, its was very late when i had completed the form online.

Thanks for pointing it out though. How are you getting on with making racing safer ? Thinking

Pmracingteam's picture

posted by Pmracingteam [7 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:57

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I agree with Farky.

This is not meant to be a tool to beat BC with. This was done with good intentions. Without the support from BC we wouldn't even have the NEG.

Pmracingteam's picture

posted by Pmracingteam [7 posts]
6th March 2013 - 15:00

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Story updated with comment from British Cycling about trial of marshals being able to stop traffic at events under its Keep racing On The Roads Campaign.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8005 posts]
6th March 2013 - 15:00

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Done

posted by SuperG [52 posts]
6th March 2013 - 15:47

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There are a lot of forces, due to govt cut backs, have cut their motorcycle teams and, if needed, have to "hire" a neighbouring forces riders to cover the likes of royal visits etc so getting the Police to provide bike cover on bike races will be nigh on impossible in some areas.

It's a sad state of affairs but cuts have had to be made. Sad

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2698 posts]
6th March 2013 - 18:39

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Totally agree and I will sign this petition. I love watching road racing as a sport but take for granted that conditions are safe for competitors.

The death of this young man is an utter tragedy. I might be naive, and indeed I don't participate in road racing but should this event have ever taken place in conditions where riders are likely to descend a hill on the RH side of the road? I realise we don't know the full circumstances of the event so am not in any way apportioning blame.

posted by 700c [556 posts]
6th March 2013 - 19:37

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Cost is the big issue. Trying to run any race can be challenging, but if you want road closure (I checked all this with the local authority) the cost is around £1600, then you have to pay police at £40+ per hour per officer to enforce it. The accredited marshals are static and can control junctions, but not anything else.
So, if you can find about £4000 and agree with the loacl police to lay on an escort, you might get a rolling closure, but there is still no guarantee that nothing will move against the race. All miles beyond the resources of the average organiser.
Look at the Tour of Britain, about 30 police and the same number of NEG to shut it all down for about 10 minutes. Cost of that must be one of the the biggest items in the organisers budget. I've heard from a contact that the average Premier RR can cost around £20,000!
I don't think BC have that kind of money to throw around, their funding is all tied to targets agreed (it's public/lottery money after all), and I'll bet when that is taken out of the equation, it would be impossible to fund 12 Premier races, let alone anything else.
The comments all assume that the poor guy hit an oncoming car, what if it had stopped though? Then all the powers in the world would not have helped. It's too easy to jump to conclusions.
For my money, road racing is far safer than TT's and miles safer than sportives. I can't recall another fatal in a UK race, unless anyone might have a better memory?

All the same, nothing can change the fact that a young man is not with us any longer, and RIP is hardly enough.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
6th March 2013 - 19:40

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If money is the issue, why exactly doesn't BC have the capacity to provide it - and also to keep races like the Archer Grand Prix going? If they have the money for the ultra-elite, it seems only right that this money should be spread out for the grass roots.

And if the Government powers that be want The Olympics to be a priority, they should be told politely but firmly that this should not be at the expense of the grass roots, who need properly financed procedures (including, but not only, policing) in order to support cycle sport decently.

And then big bucks players who want to be associated with cycling like Barclays and Sky should also be leaned on.

posted by ChairRDRF [118 posts]
6th March 2013 - 23:12

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With BC just making our fantastic regional coach redundant I imagine the cash isn't there. Signed.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1055 posts]
7th March 2013 - 8:16

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The costs estimated above for a rolling road closure rather puts into perspective the entry cost for the RideLondon-Surrey 100, which will have over 100 miles of road completely closed for a full day...

posted by Al__S [520 posts]
7th March 2013 - 9:40

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as of this moment, 5,664 signatures collected in 48 hours - that's impressive

posted by Sam1 [215 posts]
7th March 2013 - 9:55

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farrell wrote:
Farky - Do you know if there is anything you can volunteer to do at races for NEG if you aren't a motorcyclist?

Apologies if that appears to be a daft question.

Absolutely!

If your in a region running the CSAS scheme for Static marshalls, you need to be trained by the Police and accredited as a marshal. Then you can work these races as and when. Usually, the regions have a race series organised where clubs have to provide X number of volunteers at X number fo races so the load is shared but even then, people are still needed and getting time to be acredited can be an issue as they arent exactly run weekly.

If youre not in one of those regions, your marshals are always needed and along side commissairing, these are the least 'popular' volunteer roles.

To support racing in much the same was a riding NEG - do an Assisstant Commissaires course and attend 6 races to move up to Regional Comm where you can take charge as Chief Comm. Its a rewarding role. If you ride a Moto but dont want to ride NEG, riding as MotoComm is becoming more necessary due to organisers having to use courses on smaller roads (getting a Comms car to drop in/out of breaks/gaps is dangerous in a car on narrow roads).

You could also do an organisors course if youre really upto it.

Start with marshal/comms or even just offer to do timekeeper/judge at races.

posted by Farky [179 posts]
7th March 2013 - 14:16

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Cost is a very poor excuse when peoples lives are at stake, hence the need for this petition. Safety should never be compromised in this way.

posted by 700c [556 posts]
7th March 2013 - 16:16

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This is why I started the petition. The NEG are volunteers and the only expense is their mileage at 30ppm and we recruit riders that are local to the race to keep costs down.

I have even done races at my own expense as the budgets were tight. Why do we do this ? Because we love cycling and we can help in making the race safer for all people involved inc motorists. I have worked on the smallest chippers to the worlds biggest races and yet the priority is the same for every race.... Keeping it safe no matter what the race is called.

Pmracingteam's picture

posted by Pmracingteam [7 posts]
8th March 2013 - 9:40

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Signed...Unfortunately to late to stop last weekends tragedy.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [582 posts]
8th March 2013 - 16:24

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When the Olympic Road Races were taking place , the roads accessing the Race Route , were blocked !

With any race , there should be an area , prior to the route , where Signage , if not Humans , are able to interact with the Public , to restict their attempts to enter the " Field of Play " ?

Certainly , a club effort , does not require the same level of road closure , that international events warrant , however , when vehicle meets rider , there is only one result !

Family that watch their offspring Race , should consider , how they can participate , in assisting the Security cordon , needed to prevent the " looney element " from creating a tragedy ?

Politicians are the first to step forward to grab the credit gained by their local Sports Athletes , let them step forward NOW , and help create the environment that allows Cycle Racing , to continue to Foster the aspirants for British Cycling Glory ?

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [383 posts]
11th March 2013 - 19:58

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