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Are UK roads equipped to handle the rising number of cyclists?

London 2012, a gold rush of medals, back-to-back British Tour de France winners, a Grand Depart for the world’s biggest bike race held in Yorkshire: there’s no shortage of reasons why cycling has exploded in popularity in recent years. But the question now is – are our roads able to cope with them?

There was a rise in the number of deaths reported on Britain’s roads in the 12 months leading up to March 2014, with government statistics putting this down to more accidents involving cyclists and motorcyclists.

The worrying surge in serious injuries and deaths have led to cycling groups making a renewed call for greater safety measures on the roads. This includes demands to improve the bike infrastructure on and away from highways as well as a greater investment in awareness campaigns to better equip motorists in negotiating carriageways frequented by cyclists.

British Cycling campaign manager, Martin Key, feels cycling remains safe as a pastime but is keen to stress much more can be done to improve the situation, pinpointing road layouts as a particular problem.

He said: ‘The fact is that our roads are not designed with cycling in mind, and these latest road casualty figures are a reflection of that. Without adequate and sustained funding for cycling of at least £10 per head, coupled with real political leadership and national targets, Britain will continue to fall far short of great cycling countries like Holland, Germany and Denmark.’

The precise reasons for the increase in cycle accidents are always difficult to pinpoint, but Paul Watters of the AA conceded the numbers were disappointing, saying: ‘Traffic increases and the weather can be partly to blame, and we hope this is no more than a temporary blip to the long-term progress the UK is making in reducing road deaths and injuries.’

One thing all cycling enthusiasts agree on, however, is that if the government intends to encourage more journeys to be made by bike – as part of plans to improve the health of the nation, alleviate congestion and reduce emissions – more still needs to be done.


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