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Rise in Norfolk motorcyclists and moped riders killed or seriously injured sparks calls for action

PUBLISHED: 09:40 14 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:29 14 July 2014

An increase in motorcyclists being killed or seriously injured on Norfolk's roads has led to calls for action from councillors. Photo: Steve Adams

An increase in motorcyclists being killed or seriously injured on Norfolk's roads has led to calls for action from councillors. Photo: Steve Adams

The number of motorcyclists and moped riders killed or seriously injured on Norfolk’s roads has increased by almost 50pc in just 12 months, new figures have revealed.

And the rise has sparked concern from county council officers and councillors that the increase could be partly because cash-strapped young people are switching to larger motorcycles because the costs of running cars is beyond them.

Between April 2012 and March 2013, there were 74 motorcyclists and moped riders killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads, but from April to March this year there were 108 - a percentage increase of just under 46pc.

The number of riders who died fell year on year, from 10 in 2012/13 to eight in 2013/14, but the number suffering slight injuries in crashes on the county’s roads increased, up from 177 to 192.

And officers at Norfolk County Council believe one of the reasons for the increase is because young people are being priced out of cars and on to two wheels.

In a report to the council’s environment, development and transport committee, officers stated: “Although not directly evidenced, the data appear to be consistent with a greater uptake of riding larger bikes (50 to 125cc) as an alternative to car driving, possibly related to rising costs for younger drivers.”

John Timewell, Liberal Democrat county councillor for North Walsham West and Erpingham, said the increase was a major concern.

He said: “We have a situation where insurance of cars is becoming increasingly difficult for young people and they are getting motorbikes to use and these are very fast machines.

“The problem we have with these young people is that it is not considered ‘cool’ for them to go for training and we have to find a way to get them trained and safe on the roads.”

Terry Jermy, Labour county councillor for Thetford West, said, in his experience as a youth worker, more young people were buying motorcycles and mopeds in order to be able to get to work and training in rural areas.

He said: “The cost of driving lessons and insurance has forced them to do that. It’s a question of need for a lot of these young people.”

But it was riders at the opposite end of the age spectrum which concerned Cliff Jordan, Conservative county councillor for Yare and All Saints.

He said: “There’s a lot more elderly people on bikes now, the ones I call born-again motorcyclists. They are the ones I think need to be targeted.”

Colleen Walker, Labour county councillor for Magdalen ward in Great Yarmouth, said: “I think it is very serious. A lot of these will be impacts by car drivers, because in some cases I think it’s them who are to blame.

“But it’s also about educating people that these are not toys.”

Independent county councillor Richard Bird, who represents North Coast, said: “What concerns me is some of these bikes being ridden are way beyond the capability of the people who are riding them.”

Tracy Jessop, assistant director of highways and transport, said the county council was trying to reduce casualties among riders.

She said: “We have introduced different initiatives to tackle hard to reach people and have had really good results as part of our Hugger campaign. The team is already well on top of the results of the current trends. It is a case of balancing the available resources, but we are trying very hard.”

She also added that part of the reason for the increase could be down to the riding season having been longer this year - so motorcyclists were on the roads more frequently.

She said: “We have had a very mild winter, so the two-wheel riding season has been a lot longer. This year you could ride from mid February quite comfortably, whereas last year it wasn’t until mid April.”

• What do you think? Tell us your views by writing, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or emailing edpletters@archant.co.uk.

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