Every time you get on your bike to work or college, you are literally taking your life in your own hands. You will face many obstacles, from cars parked in cycle lanes and giant pot holes filled with a week’s rain, to cars blatantly disregarding you as a fellow road user. Whatever it is, cycling is not an easy ride.
Nine cyclists died on the road in Ireland last year, out of the total 166 road deaths. Nine in 166 may sound small, but according to Researchers in Trinity College, the sheer volume of serious cycling related injuries is not being recorded accurately.
Figures from the RSA and gardai said there had been 2,133 incidents over a six-year period that was studied. However, the ESRI said there had actually been 6,565 “episodes of care” for cyclists in hospitals, which suggested there had been three times as many incidents involving cyclists as recorded by the RSA.
Dr Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce believes something needs to be done about the causes of many bike accidents, rather than simply looking to control the cyclists themselves.
He said: “The weight of policing and traffic management efforts to make cycling a safe and normal part of everyday life – as it is in much of Northern Europe – needs to shift substantially from seeking to control the cyclist to managing the physical hazards which generate the death and injury in the first place.
“The most effective interventions involve physically removing the hazard, (such as the hazard of heavy goods vehicles from Dublin city centre) while the least effective leave the hazard untouched and concentrate on providing personal protective equipment to the more vulnerable.”
Most fatalities involve middle-aged men cycling in built-up areas, which means many wouldn’t have been surprised when they heard the news of a 24-year-old man being thrown from his bike after colliding with the Luas on Dublin’s Abbey Street on Wednesday morning. The young man was lucky to survive and suffered multiple breaks and fractures in the face. Granted crashing into a Luas is different to the majority of the accident stories that we hear, it is yet another cycling related injury that could have been so much worse.
While cyclists have a lot to answer for themselves when it comes to obeying the rules of the road, it is time all road users respected one another. As an every-day cyclist myself, I am all too familiar with motorists paying little or no attention to those on bikes. I have seen and heard of so many fellow cyclists being thrown from their bikes, particularly in wet, dark conditions.
It has to be said, many cyclists, myself included, are guilty of not obeying all of the rules of the road. There is always the occasional light that we think we can run through without causing any fuss. This is obviously going to lead to accidents and should be treated with as much importance as motorists breaking the rules. Cyclists have to respect the danger of the road and realise that all the same rules apply to them too.
It is time for the next government to really enforce safety measures for cyclists. One should be required by law to wear helmets and high visibility jackets at all times. It took a good friend of mine having an accident on a Dublin road for me to start wearing a helmet, and for many they leave it too late and suffer the consequences. It could be the difference between living and dying.