The chairperson of an Essex cycling club has claimed that experienced club members have moved to Suffolk because they ‘feared for their lives’ while riding their bikes on the county’s roads.
Russell Tribley, a coach at Chelmer Cycling Club, also told BBC Essex that the recent revisions to the Highway Code have coincided with more instances of aggressive driving and close passes.
Tribley was speaking as part of a segment on cycling in the county on Sonia Watson’s BBC Essex radio programme this morning.
Watson also interviewed road.cc contributor Laura Laker, who in a series of articles for the site has noted the inherent dangers of cycling and lack of police numbers on what she calls “some of the country’s most dangerous roads”, as Essex gears up to host the RideLondon 100 leisure event this year, alongside the three-day women’s WorldTour race.
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“I would love to cycle on Essex roads,” Laker told Watson, “and I’m sure Essex residents don’t necessarily want to take the car for every journey… but something does need to change.
“I think infrastructure is really important. We need safe streets, cycle lanes, but we also need education from the police. The police are just drastically under resourced in Essex. I spoke to the head of roads policing in Essex and he said there were seven police officers across the 5,000 miles of Essex roads on ‘a good day’, and it’s just not enough.
“There are people using their mobile phones at the wheel, and if you’re not caught, the standard just drops and drops, and that’s what we’ve seen in Essex unfortunately.”
Concurring with Laker’s view of the situation on Essex roads, Tribley argued that the recent revisions to the Highway Code, designed to protect the most vulnerable road users, have done little to help the county’s cyclists.
“Changes to the Highway Code haven’t helped,” he said. “In fact, this year we feel it’s gotten worse – the aggression of some drivers, not everybody obviously, has gotten worse.
“There is more close passing than ever; wing mirrors clipping the elbows of our club riders when riding single file. And oncoming riders on the Essex country lanes. The lanes are narrow – absolutely fantastic to cycle in, this weekend there were lots of cyclists out on the roads – but oncoming cars not slowing down, forcing you into the verges."
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The coach also claimed that the levels of dangerous driving in Essex have forced experienced cyclists to move out of the county, as well as having a detrimental impact on those who took up cycling over the past decade.
He said: “We’ve had two members recently, experienced cyclists, who have actually sold up and moved to Suffolk because they’re just fed up with the driving standards and fearing for their safety on the Essex roads. They’ve moved to Suffolk primarily because they fear for their lives cycling.
“After the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Tour de France coming to Essex, we saw a massive increase in cycling from that legacy, and our cycling club doubled in membership. But it’s not a coincidence that since that initial wave – and again, with the beginning of the pandemic – those numbers have tailed off. And again, I think it’s that fear factor.”
Unsurprisingly, quite a few listeners texted in to criticise the behaviour of cyclists in Essex, with one texter claiming that cyclists “are the most selfish people on the roads”.
However, one non-cyclist wrote in to point out that dangerous driving in the county not only affects cyclists, but horse riders and pedestrians as well, and argued that “we take our lives in our hands when we leave the front drive”.
Calling all Essex cyclists in the comments – what do you think? Do you agree with Russell? Have you noticed an increase in close passes and dangerous driving since the Highway Code changes? Let us know.