A SURGE in the popularity of cycling coupled with inadequate roads and poor road sense have contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of bikers killed or seriously injured on the roads, it is claimed.
Motoring and cycling groups have expressed concerns as the number of cyclists killed or seriously hurt rose 27 per cent to 690 in the first part of 2014, according to Government estimates.
And as more people take up cycling in the wake of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ coming to Yorkshire last month, it is feared that the casualty list may rise.
There were 380 deaths on British roads in the first three months of this year, 13 per cent more than in the January-March period last year.
The number of cyclists suffering slight injuries rocketed by 43 per cent to 3,830, prompting fears that inexperienced cyclists may be adding to the injury toll.
Cycling groups blamed poorly designed roads.
British Cycling’s campaigns manager, Martin Key, said: “While cycling is statistically safer than walking, we know that much more could be done to make Britain’s roads accommodating for people on bikes.
“The fact is that our roads are not designed with cycling in mind and these latest road casualty figures are a reflection of that.
“Without adequate and sustained funding for cycling of at least £10 per head, coupled with real political leadership and national targets, Britain will continue to fall far short of great cycling countries like Holland, Germany and Denmark.”
Keen cyclist and Kirklees councillor Martyn Bolt claimed more investment was needed on the roads and on educating drivers and cyclists. He believes the casualty toll will drop as people abandon cars for bikes.
Cyclist Mark Thoburn, of Chevin Cycles in Otley, said he believed drivers’ awareness had improved but some on two wheels lacked the “sixth sense” necessary to ride safely.
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, insisted Britain had the second safest roads in the world after Sweden and cycling was as safe as walking.
He said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, and the number of deaths last year was the lowest since records began in 1926.”
He added: “The more cyclists there are on the road, the more that motorists will look out for them.
“We have doubled the spending on cycling compared to the previous government.”
Mr Goodwill claimed the bad weather in the first quarter of 2013 may have had an impact on the lower casualty figure compared to this year’s number.
Rachel Bromley, of transport charity, Sustrans, said: “The sharp rise in casualties will only serve to further deter people from walking and cycling and promote a growing fear among parents that children are safer inside the car. It’s time to bite the bullet and make dedicated funding available to transform local walking and cycling routes and introduce lower traffic speeds.”