**Featured image: Pictured from left are members of Durham University Cycling Club Harvey Leak-Smith, Douglas Phillips and Aydin Rezazadeh.

Motorists are being urged to look twice for bikes after the latest figures revealed that over half of collisions involving cyclists were caused by drivers simply failing to see them.

With almost 2,500 cyclists injured on North East roads during the last five years, including 551 seriously injured and 19 killed, drivers are being reminded just how vulnerable people on bikes are as we approach the start of the spring/summer cycling season.

Children are the highest risk group – with 12 to 16-year-olds accounting for 15% of all cyclist injuries, while children in total account for 22%.

Yet, the statistics show that the vast majority of children injured while cycling (92%) and 63% of adults  were not wearing a helmet at the time. And all child cyclists killed and two thirds of adult fatalities were not wearing helmets when they died.

Campaign and education group Road Safety GB North East said cycling in the region had doubled since 2020 as the lockdowns led to an uptake in the activity.

And with cycling casualties typically increasing from April/May each year, and remaining high until the autumn, the group has joined with the emergency services to remind drivers to look out for bikes and to give them space when overtaking – at least 1.5m.

RSGB NE Chair Cheryl Ford-Lyddon said the latest figures showed that two thirds (66%) of collisions involving bikes were caused by a failure to look properly – 60% due to the driver failing to see the cyclist.

“It’s fantastic that so many people are continuing to get out on their bikes and enjoy some of the beautiful routes around the region, but it’s important we all do our bit to keep cyclists safe,” said Cheryl.

“Despite a drop in casualties for most road-user groups during the last five years, especially due to the impact of Covid on travel patterns, the number of cyclists injured on the roads has remained the same. This is most likely because more people have taken up cycling.

“Cyclists only make up around 1% of miles travelled in the region, but they account for 13% of serious injuries and 6% of fatalities. Nobody wants a death or serious injury on their conscience. We are appealing to everyone to look out for others. Drivers should always take a second look for bikes before pulling out. It could save a life.”

Douglas Phillips, a member of Durham University Cycling Club, urged drivers to be patient with cyclists. He said: “I would ask drivers to respect cyclists and to give them a little space or to wait until it’s safe to overtake. If you’re stuck behind a cyclist for just a minute or two, it’s only going to cost you a minute on your journey and that’s not really worth risking somebody’s life for.”

The most common location for cyclists to be involved in a collision is close to a junction, with 70% of cyclist casualties occurring within 20m of where roads meet.

Chief Inspector Helen Wilson, from the Cleveland & Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “We are asking drivers to take extra care around cyclists and to ensure sufficient room is left when overtaking or manoeuvring around them – at least 1.5m. We hope that raising awareness will help to save lives on our roads.”

Head of Northumbria Police’s Road Safety team, Sergeant Glen Robson, said: “Sadly, every year hundreds of cyclists are injured on our roads. We urge drivers to look twice and always be mindful that cyclists could be on the road. We also want to remind people that every driver is responsible for ensuring their own fitness to drive, and that includes ensuring their eyesight is road-ready and that they can read a licence plate from at least 20m/66ft away.”

Andy Corcoran, Chair of the Cleveland Road Safety Partnership, said: “The recently updated Highway Code puts those at the highest risk – including cyclists – at the top of the hierarchy of road-users. It emphasises the need for everyone to be considerate and to understand their responsibility for the safety of others.

‘The increase in the number of cyclists on our roads over the last two years means that it’s more important than ever for other road-users – in particular drivers – to look out for them.  Looking twice takes a split second, but it could be the difference between life and death for a cyclist.”

Steven Thomas, Group Manager, Prevention and Education at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “A great number of the road collisions that our firefighters deal with involving vehicles and cyclists are avoidable. It all comes down to awareness, safe and sensible driving, and respecting other road-users, whether they are on two wheels or four.”

Glen Stewart, Community Safety Manager at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our crews are regularly required to assist at road traffic collisions. Together, we can all help reduce the number of collisions involving cyclists. We want to encourage all drivers to look out for cyclists, especially when turning.”

Pedal Cyclist Casualties by Local Authority, 2017 to 2021

Local Authority Fatal Serious Slight Total Avg Annual Cycle Miles (2017-20)
County Durham 3 70 225 298 10,395,832
Darlington 1 27 99 127 4,703,481
Gateshead 0 36 152 188 6,740,313
Hartlepool 2 22 87 111 4,204,989
Middlesbrough 2 31 171 204 9,199,919
Newcastle upon Tyne 0 82 336 418 18,977,923
North Tyneside 1 48 181 230 15,165,011
Northumberland 4 84 171 259 7,166,029
Redcar and Cleveland 2 23 66 91 7,052,121
South Tyneside 0 31 112 143 3,774,386
Stockton-on-Tees 2 36 143 181 9,484,798
Sunderland 2 61 161 224 6,837,579
Total 19 551 1,904 2,474 103,702,381