Pictured: Pupils from West Park Academy, pictured L-R, with Darlington Borough Council’s Road Safety Support Officer Liz Hart, are Elliott, Alex, Felicity, Connie and Libby

Pupils have joined road safety experts and the emergency services in urging drivers to take a second look for bikes after the latest figures showed cyclist casualties continue to be stubbornly high.

Children from West Park Academy in Darlington and Lord Blyton Primary School in South Shields have thrown their weight behind a campaign by Road Safety GB North East and police and fire services in appealing for road users to slow down and look out for each other.

During the past five years, 16 cyclists have been killed and 549 seriously injured on North East roads, with failure to look, by either the driver or cyclist, accounting for almost two-thirds of all collisions involving a pedal cycle.

As the weather improves, and more cyclists are likely to be out on their bikes, drivers are encouraged to watch out for bikes, and cyclists are advised to wear helmets and bright or reflective clothing.

Road Safety GB North East Chairman Peter Slater said “During the spring and summer, we see cyclist casualties increase, but the majority of collisions are preventable.

“We are appealing to all road users. If everyone was more alert, slowed down and gave each other space, a lot of collisions would be avoided. Drivers should always take a second look for cyclists, and they should look over their shoulder before pulling out to overtake or join traffic, or before opening their car door.

“Cyclists are vulnerable, so we all need to do more to keep them safe.”

While cyclists account for only 1% of miles travelled on the road, they make up 11% of casualties in the region.

The latest figures have shown that almost a quarter of cyclist casualties were aged under 16, with 12 to 15-year-olds among one of the highest-risk groups on the roads.

However, the statistics also showed that 90% of children injured or killed were not wearing helmets at the time.

The pupils of West Park Academy and Lord Blyton Primary School have taken part in Bikeability courses run by their local councils, learning about the importance of staying safe while cycling, and remembering to always wear a helmet.

Headteacher of West Park Academy Sam Hirst said: “Being able to cycle safely is an invaluable life skill. Our children enjoy participating in cycling proficiency, whilst they learn the importance of road safety and practice the skills needed to cycle safely on the road.”

While Headteacher of Lord Blyton Primary School Joanne Atherton said: “Our children always enjoy the road safety workshops. They enjoy learning about safety on the road and the importance of wearing a helmet each and every time before taking a bike out.

“We are delighted to support the campaign and hope everyone looks out for others when they’re out on the roads.”

The figures have shown that the most common location for cyclists to become involved in a collision is close to a junction, with 69% of cyclist casualties occurring within 20m of a junction.

Sergeant Glen Robson, of Northumbria Police’s Operation Dragoon team, said: “We all have a responsibility to make our roads as safe as possible. Serious or fatal collisions can destroy lives and rip families apart – and quite often they are entirely preventable.”

Andrew Bright, Road Safety Co-ordinator for Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “These statistics are more than numbers; they could be someone’s son, daughter, husband or wife. We are appealing to all road users to take extra care, particularly around junctions. Take time to read the road ahead and give cyclists space when overtaking.”

Pupils from Lord Blyton Primary School, pictured L-R, with South Tyneside Council’s Bikeability Instructor Linda Higgins are Ellis, Lily, Leighton and Freddie.
Pictured: Pupils from Lord Blyton Primary School, pictured L-R, with South Tyneside Council’s Bikeability Instructor Linda Higgins are Ellis, Lily, Leighton and Freddie.

Inspector Jamie Bell, from Cleveland Police Roads Policing Unit, said: “Cyclists are some of our most vulnerable road users in Cleveland. As the weather improves, road users need to be aware that there will be more cyclists out and about.

“Please double-check the road at all times and allow cyclists time and space for them to manoeuvre particularly when overtaking them, this could mean that a tragedy is avoided, and someone’s loved one is saved.”

Sergeant Catherine Iley, from Durham Constabulary’s Roads and Armed Policing Unit, said: “Cyclists are very vulnerable, and are at a higher risk of being involved in a serious or fatal collision.

“The majority of collisions are preventable, and we fully support any campaign that encourages road users to be more aware and respectful of their surroundings.”

Group Manager Steven Thomas, Head of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s Prevention and Education Department, said: “Our roads are an important means of getting around, but whatever we are doing, road safety has always got to be at the forefront of our minds.

“The risk is higher for cyclists. Respect your fellow road users by being extra vigilant, and always check your mirrors for cyclists who may be travelling close to your vehicle.

The data below shows the breakdown of cyclist casualties across the region. Newcastle has the highest level of causalities, however, it also has the highest cycling numbers in the North East, so the higher figures could be partly explained by this

Local Authority Fatal Serious Slight Total
County Durham 1 67 220 288
Darlington 0 29 95 124
Gateshead 0 39 146 185
Hartlepool 2 19 92 113
Middlesbrough 1 36 164 201
Newcastle upon Tyne 1 69 319 389
North Tyneside 1 47 169 217
Northumberland 4 90 166 260
Redcar and Cleveland 2 26 64 92
South Tyneside 1 34 119 154
Stockton-on-Tees 1 35 134 170
Sunderland 2 58 158 218
Total 16 549 1,846 2,411