Drivers are being urged to be more aware of cyclists after figures revealed that people riding their bikes are now among those most at risk on North East roads.
As more and more people have taken to their bikes since the country went into lockdown earlier this year, the number of cyclists being killed or injured in the region is beginning to climb.
Of the last five fatal road collisions in the Cleveland Police force area, four have been cyclists.
42 people were killed or seriously injured riding their bikes during lockdown in the region – between March and June – despite a 70% fall in traffic.
Road Safety GB North East said while the number of other road-users killed or injured fell dramatically during this period, it remained the same as last year for cyclists.
Both children and adults have been killed or seriously injured while cycling, leading road safety officers and the emergency services to call for better awareness of people on bikes.
While the cause of each incident may be different, it is believed the sharp increase in people riding bikes – thought to be up by around 300% – coupled with an increase in driver speed, could be factors.
Peter Slater, of Road Safety GB North East, which is made up of road safety officers from across the region, said: “Although it’s great to see more people cycling in the region, we are really disappointed by the latest figures.
“Riding bikes on busy roads can be challenging – especially for the new wave of lockdown cyclists. We would urge people who are new to cycling, or haven’t cycled for some time, to stick to quieter routes and cycle paths at first to build up confidence.
“Also, make sure that your bike is in good working order and has lights that work.
“We have so many more cyclists on our roads, so drivers, please slow down and give them plenty of space – at least 1.5m. Actively look for bikes, and take a second look before pulling out, or when opening your car door, because the consequences can be fatal.”
Peter said, as the region’s roads returned to normal, it was important for all road-users to be considerate of others.
Police Inspector Catherine Iley, from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “Since lockdown we have seen an increase in people deciding to get out and about on their bikes for exercise.
“However, despite the fall in traffic on the roads, we attended a number of collisions involving cyclists, some of which were sadly fatal.
“I would encourage all road-users to remain alert to the hazards around them, and be mindful that cyclists, in particular, can be vulnerable. Please take the extra time to look out for cyclists and use caution when driving alongside them. It could save a life.”
Chief Inspector Sam Rennison, of Northumbria Police, said: “If a vehicle travelling at high speed was involved in a collision with a cyclist or a pedestrian then the results could be catastrophic – and these figures reinforce the need for everyone to remain vigilant.
“It’s vitally important that we reduce the average speed of cars, while cyclists also have a responsibility to ride in an appropriate manner and ensure they are as visible as possible to vehicles on the road.”
Between March and June this year, when lockdown was at its height, the number of casualties in the region from cars fell by 68% on last year, pedestrians were down 59%, bikers were down 32%, and casualties from buses, trucks and other vehicles were down 65%.
Cycling casualties, however, decreased by just 0.6%.