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Written on 10th July 2020 by

The reports of cyclist deaths doubling during lockdown are alarming. Reports show that by the end of April 2020, just over a month since the UK lockdown began on 23 March, cyclist fatalities were running at more than double the usual average for the same time of year.

By the end of April 2020, 15 cyclists had been killed on roads in those first few weeks.

Collisions were reported at the end of March and throughout April across the UK involving tractors, vans and various models of cars.

The cyclists range in age from 18 to 80.

All of these incidents will most likely be explored fully at Inquest, and a number of the drivers of the vehicles were arrested. Some of the drivers have been charged with offences and some have not.

One victim was Freddie Oborne, an 80 year old keen cyclist and triathlete who was sadly killed in Hatfield, Hertfordshire on 20 April. A 23 year old woman from Hertford was arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

Paul Heenan, was just 40 years old when he died following injuries which he sustained in a collision in Ebbw Vale. Police arrested the driver of the vehicle on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

On 13 April a male cyclist in his 50s died following a collision the previous day in Sunbury. The driver of the vehicle that hit him, a Mercedes CLK coupe was also arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

Other collisions reported include:

  • A 50 year old man died from injuries following a collision with a van in Lincolnshire on 23 March.
  • A male cyclist was killed in Moira, Northern Ireland after a collision involving a Seat Leon on 26 March.
  • Simon Morgan, 57, died as a result of injuries involving a collision with a tractor near Balsall Common, Solihull on 3 April.
  • A Metropolitan Police Intelligence Analyst Rachel Brown, was aged just 25 when she was killed on 7 April in a collision involving two vehicles in south west London.
  • Robert Holmes aged 36 was killed in a car accident near Menai Bridge in Anglesey on 10 April. 

The list sadly seems to go on and on.

I cannot imagine what those families that have lost loved ones at such a traumatic time during the pandemic are going through. The grief must be even harder when social interaction is severely curtailed. Funeral numbers have been restricted, memorial services have to be streamed via Zoom and Obitus and the bereaved have not been able to hug anyone outside their own family. And what about those that didn’t die at the scene of the accident? Did the partners and children have a chance to say their goodbyes? Did they have to do this via Facetime? My heart truly goes out to these families that have lost loved ones on the roads during what must be the most difficult time.

What can we look to explain the increase in cyclist fatalities on the roads?

At the beginning of lockdown, there were, of course, tight restrictions on what you could do to exercise. The government made it clear that cycling was a permissible form of daily exercise along with walking and running although it was rather vague about how long and how far we should ride for. Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, said

"I would have thought for most people a walk of up to an hour, a run of 30 minutes or a cycle ride of between that depending on their level of fitness, is appropriate."

Hire schemes were quick to provide free bikes for key workers to commute and the government ensured bike shops could remain open so cyclists could access repairs, maintenance and equipment. The cycling industry reported that the sales of bicycles were booming in those early days. I received a text from my non sporty close friend in April

"I’ve finally bitten the bullet and bought a mountain bike so I can keep up with the kids during lockdown."

It seems logical to think that there were a greater number of cyclists on the roads than usual, many of whom may have been out of practice or even beginners.

However, many of the people that died were experienced cyclists. There was noticeably a lot less traffic on our local roads initially. My family and I took advantage of this in April and May. The benefits of cycling to our mental and physical health are well known and we never seem to have enough time in our busy lives to ever go on bike rides. We have a busy main road to navigate before we reach the easy flat and safe cycle paths by the River Thames. With two primary school aged children one of whom had passed their cycling proficiency test last year, but one being too young to take it, we took our bikes out on local roads at the weekends to try and increase confidence. We saw many others early on a Sunday morning doing the same. Given that the roads were markedly less busy - on occasion vehicles travelling over Reading Bridge were stopped and checked to ensure drivers had a legitimate reason to travel - it does seem contrary to expectations to see an increase in cyclists deaths in those first few weeks.

However, a number of road traffic policing units across the UK highlighted issues for example an increase in speeding by motorists who took advantage of the empty roads.

Are there fewer collisions involving cyclists now restrictions are easing?

Sadly we are still seeing cycle fatalities even though restrictions have been starting to lift. Two men were very sadly killed at the scene near High Wycombe when they were hit from behind by a Volkswagen Golf R on 1 June.

In the village of Sonning, Berkshire, a 42 year old man was cycling through the village on 10 June when he was hit by a 22 year old woman who was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink or drugs. Huw Jones was a keen lifelong cyclist. Our sincere sympathies are with those whose lives are shockingly and dramatically altered forever in these incidents.

Have people forgotten how to drive during lockdown? We urge everyone to take greater care on the roads. Whilst some of these collisions could be a case of “wrong place wrong time”, drivers clearly have a high duty of care to cyclists who are much more vulnerable than them. A momentary lapse in concentration can have such a devastating and profound impact. We urge drivers to be extra vigilant as more and more people take to cycling to avoid public transport due to the Coronavirus. Lives depend on it.

If you or someone you know has been injured whilst cycling on the roads please contact our expert personal injury team by email at piclaims@boyesturner.com to have a chat about how they can help.