FEW people will ever hear the peace and harmony of the British road system spoken about at great length.
It seems that a world in which all road users can be relied upon to look after each other, drive carefully and consider the vulnerable – whether a cyclist or pedestrian – can sometimes seem like a hopeless pipe dream.
But the consequences of bad driving, lack of observation, too much speed and too little consideration are seen on our roads every day.
Admittedly, the situation for cyclists does seem to be getting a little better.
In 2000, 142 cyclists were killed or injured on the county’s roads, but in 2010 that figure had dipped to 107. Yet there is still work to be done to lower this statistic even further.
Since 2000, 15 cyclists have been killed in Northamptonshire and a total of 1396 injured, but why are so many bikers still getting into trouble on the roads?
Cycling safety hit the headlines once more this month when MP Sir Alan Beith told the Commons that haulage firms should be made to fit sensors, as part of his Road Safety Bill.
He believes that sensors and better mirrors on high-sided vehicles – whose drivers’ often struggle to spot cyclists in certain positions – would save many lives. But would these changes go far enough?
Gareth Shortt, transport manager at Chaplin’s Transport, a haulage firm in Roade, commented: “For a lot of people in this industry it is hard. I would have thought this would be the role of manufacturers to make sure new trucks are fitted with these features.”
He believes that safety could be improved with more education for both cyclists and motorists.
He said: “There are cyclists who go alongside a lorry not realising that the moment that lorry turns, they will be under the wheels.”
He added: “You do see cyclists weaving their way through traffic.”
John Norrie is the chairman of Northampton Advanced Motorcyclists (NAM), a group which helps qualified drivers to hone their skills even further.
He said he would like to see some actual bike experience introduced to formal driver training so that motorists understand what it is like to tackle the roads as a cyclist.
He said: “I’m a cyclist as well, so I see it from both sides. if you are cycling along and someone goes past you at 60 mph a foot away from your leg, it is not comfortable.”
He added: “A motorist can end up with scratched paint and a cyclist in a wheelchair for the rest of their life.”
He continued: “The problem with cars is people think they are in this safe bubble until they hit something. I have followed people on a road who have gone extremely close to someone on a bike and they might be completely unaware of that.”
But work is being done on a practical level across the county to help cyclists.
Neil Holland, access development officer (walking and cycling) for Northamptonshire County Council, explained that a new Norbital route had just been launched for the Northampton area – an 18-mile stretch of cycle paths linking up residential areas with places such as Brackmills Industrial Estate. Aside from this, there is a map available for the local area which grades roads by colours in terms of their safety levels for cyclists.
He said: “We are also putting in advanced stop lanes at difficult points, allowing cyclists to get to the front of traffic, which allows great visibility. We are catering for those who are not very confident and if people don’t feel safe they are more likely to have an accident.”
Anyone who would like to find out more about learning advanced motoring skills can email the NAM at email@example.com
The NAM, which offers free driving assessments, meets on the first Sunday of every month at Midsummer Meadow carpark in Bedford Road, Northampton.
For more information on the latest cycle maps for the area, email firstname.lastname@example.org