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 .
"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.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.