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End to end riders urged to look after themselves after recent deaths

Four deaths in last 15 months leads to calls for care

Cyclists taking part in rides between the two most distance points in Great Britain have been urged to look after themselves after several deaths among end-to-end riders in recent years.

Most recently, Sally Preece from Cheltenham died after being involved in a collision with a car on September 13 while riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats with the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

On September 6, 34-year-old Anna Roots from London was killed following a collision with a lorry at Bettyhill, just 55 miles into the John O’Groats to Land’s End ride she was undertaking with a friend.

Riders tackling the trip beteen Land's End and John O'Groats are usually raising money for charity.

John Green, a former town councillor in John O'Groats, told the Herald: "It is estimated that there are around 3,000 or 4,000 end to enders every year. Most of them do try to raise money for charity as a goal."

Sadly though there is usually a fatality on the route each year.

Sandy Allan, road safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: "It is terrible when any person loses their life on our roads but it seems all the more tragic when they were undertaking a journey specifically to help others.

"Any cyclist undertaking a charity ride often puts more thought and preparation into their journey than most of us would on a normal commute to work. Unfortunately they are no less susceptible to being injured if involved in a collision..

"All road users need to show consideration to others around them and appreciate driving or riding from their perspective." 

Jacqui Shannon, of the CTC said: "We receive more enquiries on the cycle route from Lands End to John O'Groats as a cycle challenge, either for a charity or as a personal endeavour, than all our other routes put together.

"Doing an unsupported or a self-initiated ride for charity on open roads is gaining popularity which is great for the charities who benefit. The rider, however, needs to remain aware of the road conditions, other users and their own abilities to ensure their own safety."

Just how risky is the end-to-end?

The CTC estimates that there is one cycling fatality for every 27 million miles ridden, and according to the BBC, Department for Transport figures show that there is one cycling death or serious injury (KSI) for roughly every million miles cycled.

If we take John Green's estimate of the number of end to enders and call the distance 1,000 miles, then we'd expect to go years between deaths.

The problem is that much of the route is on rural A and B roads with high speed limits. According to RoSPA, "the severity of injuries suffered by cyclists increases with the speed limit, meaning that riders are more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries on higher speed roads. Almost half of cyclist deaths occur on rural roads."

As a result, the three or four annual KSIs you'd expect on the end to end are more likely to result in death than serious injury.

That's borne out by the locations of many of the fatalities in the last few years. In 2008 Graham Lees was killed on the A38 near Taunton; the following year Simon Evans died when he was hit by a car on the A30 near Tedburn St Mary. In 2010 Arthur Platt died after being hit by a car on A442 in Telford.

Last year Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace were killed when they were hit by a lorry on the A30 near Okehampton. Both of the recent fatalties also occurred on A roads: Anna Roots was on the A836 and Sally Preece was on the A85 close to Loch Earn.

Another factor may be that a rider on a schedule has no choice of route once under way. If you're just out for a ride you can change your mind if a road turns out to be dangerously busy, and commuter cyclists tyically tailor their routes to avoid traffic. But avoiding, say, the A30 means a hilly and winding route through Cornwall and Devon.

All in all, though, it might be better to take a bit longer over an end-to-end adventure and follow a quieter route than to dash the length of the country on A roads.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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