UKIP councillor describes Norwich cyclists as “law unto themselves”

Concern has been raised over whether a surge in cycling, inspired by the Tour of Britain and Norwich

Concern has been raised over whether a surge in cycling, inspired by the Tour of Britain and Norwich City Council's Push The Pedalways scheme, will lead to more injuries on Norfolk's roads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Concerns have been raised that a surge in cycling, inspired by the Tour of Britain and the multi-million pound Push The Pedalways scheme in Norwich, could lead to an increase in serious injuries on Norfolk's roads.

New statistics show that, in the 12 months leading up to August this year, 119 cyclists and pedestrians were killed or seriously injured on the county's roads.

In total, 405 people were killed or seriously injured in Norfolk over that period, so almost 30pc were cyclists or pedestrians.

At one point in 2011, the comparable rolling 12 month tally for cyclists and pedestrians was as low as 65. That prompted speculation, at a meeting of the Road Casualty Reduction Partnership Board, as to the reason for the increase.

Norfolk and Suffolk police assistant chief constable Sarah Hamlin told members of the board - made up of councillors, council officers and representatives from organisations such as the police and fire service - anecdotal evidence suggested more people were cycling on Norfolk's roads.

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She said: 'The number of road users has changed and, following things like the Tour of Britain, we are seeing lots more cyclists on the roads.'

Jenny McKibben, Norfolk's deputy police and crime commissioner. said her office had commissioned a piece of work to look at the issue.

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She said: 'Our concern is that we know there is a high level of unreported incidents. There's a number of incidents which involve cyclists and vehicles which are never presented.

'If you look solely at the killed and seriously injured figures, you are only looking at an element of the bigger figure.

'Norwich has recently started spending millions on cycling which will drive up cycling because of the obvious benefits for health.

'In terms of absolute numbers we have a significant proportion of people experiencing harm and we might expect that number to rise.'

She said efforts needed to be made to provide training to help cyclists - similar to Norfolk County Council's successful Hugger scheme on motorcycle safety.

Jonathon Childs, UKIP councillor for East Flegg, told the meeting: 'I come from Yarmouth and I'm shocked at the cyclists charging out in Norwich. I travelled here down Thorpe Road and I'm shocked five or six aren't killed each day with the way they leap out in front of people. 'They charge around and are a law unto themselves. When you see them pull out, I'm surprised there are not more accidents'.

But Ms McKibben said, just as there are good and bad drivers, there are good and bad cyclists. She said: 'I am a responsible cyclist and you have to be careful not to lump them all together. One of the biggest causes of incidents is motorists failing to look. We need to educate cyclists, but need to raise awareness with motorists too.'

County council officers said, last month, they conducted a survey of cyclists across Norwich, asking where they were travelling from and to, to help build up a better picture of how to target casualty reduction.

And leaders at Norwich City Council, which is behind the Push The Pedalways scheme, said it was being designed with safety in mind.

The £5.7m scheme has seen changes being made to an eight-mile cycling route in Norwich from Heartsease to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Bert Bremner, city council cabinet member for environment and sustainable development, said: 'Improving cycling infrastructure is about managing and meeting existing demand for provision, as well as encouraging more people to take to their bikes.

'Safety is a vital part of this and projects are designed to allow all road users to co-exist effectively, even where space is restricted.

'As the culture on the roads shifts we hope it means casualties will be kept to a minimum despite the number of cyclists increasing.

'As it grows in popularity, we believe all the benefits associated with cycling will be realised, including improving health and fitness levels, as well as reducing carbon emissions.'

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