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Rise in cycling casualties on North Yorkshire roads – an unwanted legacy of Le Tour?

70 per cent rise in bad crashes in the last five year prompts council to investigate cyclist safety

The number of serious bike crashes in North Yorkshire is up by more than 70 per cent in the last five years - just as cycling has taken off in the county according - prompting the Harrogate Advertiser to ask whether an upsurge in cycling generated by the Tour de France is a factor.

According to the Advertiser's analysis of casualty statistics for the area there has been a 70 per cent increase in major crashes on the county’s roads over five years, and a 30 per cent rise in the last two years - Yorkshire submitted it's bid to host the Tour Grand Depart in March 2012 (initially it was to host the 2016 edition of the race). 

As we reported earlier this year North Yorkshire County Council has already launched a Think Bike! safety campaign to stem the rising number of casualties on its roads among cyclists and motorcyclists.

There was a 70 per cent rise in the number of serious crashes in North Yorkshire in the past five years, from 20 in the first six months of 2009 to 34 in the same period for 2014. There was also a 30 per cent rise in serious crashes in the last two years, from 26 to 34. Serious injury is defined in the offical statistics as anything that requires treatment as a hospital in-patient or any of a range of injuries including concussion, fractures or severe cuts whether a hospital stay ir requried or not. 

While the rise in the number of casualties is an unpalatable fact there are no figures to show what if any change in the number of people cycling on North Yorkshire's roads has been over the same period.

Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rise in cycling numbers in Yorkshire particularly since last year when the Tour route was announced leading to cyclists from all over the country heading to Yorkshire to pits themselves against the road to be raced by the pros. So while casualty rates may have risen by 70 per cent over the period there is no way of knowing

Any 'Tour effect' on the rising casualty rate can be discounted before mid-2012 when Yorkshire launched it's bid; and the Tour stage routes in Yorkshire were only released in January 2013.

“The fact is there are more cyclists on our roads than ever before, and more casualties,” said Honor Byford, team leader for road safety at North Yorkshire County Council.

“It’s hard to say if that’s down to more people cycling on the Tour route, but we are doing this campaign regardless.

“If we can all learn to share the road it will make one hell of a difference.

“We do not have statistics to tell us how many cyclists used the Tour route roads before the announcement, nor afterwards, so we cannot calculate an accurate rate,” she said.

“That said, since we do know that the figures show a numerical increase, it is sufficient for us to want to do what we can to reduce that number so that more people can enjoy cycling in North Yorkshire without coming to grief.”

Regional authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber have created a safety app, led by the City of York council.

And a poster campaign to ‘Think Bike’ has been widely used, with poster billboards on bus shelters in Harrogate and on busy cycle routes.


Responding to the Harrogate Advertiser report British Cycling campaigns manager, Martin Key said: “Contrary to public perception, cycling is a safe activity.

Official figures repeatedly suggest that the general risk of cycling is very low with more people injured while gardening than cycling.

“However, more needs to be done to ensure that an increase in numbers of people cycling does not lead to a greater number of accidents. Major events like the Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games taking place in Britain provide us with an unrivalled opportunity to get more people on bikes.

“We must change road layouts, reduce speeds, improve infrastructure and create desirable cycle lanes if we are to reduce people’s concerns about riding in traffic.

“That is why we are calling on both local and national government to make a sustained investment and long-term commitment to cycling by adopting Choose Cycling - our 10-point plan to make Britain a true cycling nation.”

Last week we reported how the air quality in Huddersfield improved dramatically when roads closed around the Tour de France Grand Départ in July.

The council shut dozens of roads around the route,  from Ainley Top to Holme Moss, as well as a large number of feeder roads.

Monitoring stations in the town found that as a result, there was a big fall in air pollution during the times of the road closures.

There was a huge fall in nitrogen dioxide levels, a gas caused by heavy traffic.

Clr Steve Hall, Kirklees Cabinet member for Environmental Health, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: “We noticed a striking difference when the roads were closed to traffic. The drop in the pollution level was dramatic and immediate.

“The unusual situation created by the visit of the Tour de France highlights how our car use affects pollution levels and shows the benefits of cycling and walking.”

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