British Cycling is leading angry calls urging the Government to put cyclists “at the heart” of transport policy after its star athlete and the man behind Team GB’s gold medal haul in the Olympic velodrome were both injured in separate road accidents within 24 hours of each other.
Tour de France and Olympic time trial winner Bradley Wiggins was taken to hospital on Tuesday with a bruised hand and ribs after colliding with a van near his Lancashire home.
He appeared to be in rude health as he emerged from Royal Preston Hospital following a precautionary scan of his head, giving photographers a middle-finger salute.
But an incident this morning near Levenshulme in Manchester involving Shane Sutton, Head Coach for the GB Cycling Team, saw the cyclist suffer a small bleed on the brain and concussion.
Police said Sutton is now in a stable condition, but British Cycling claimed he will need to spend the “next few days” in hospital.
The 55-year-old Australian coach, who has transformed the fortunes of the GB Team since taking a position there in 2002, collided with a Peugeot 206 at 8.55am on the A6. He was conscious and breathing when he was taken by ambulance to Salford Royal Hospital. The driver was not injured, and no arrests were made.
Wiggins was hit when a white Astra van pulled out of a filling station forecourt. A garage attendant said the cyclist was “on the ground” and “in a lot of pain”. The female driver, uninjured, was said to be in a “bit of a shock” and will be questioned by police.
The cyclist’s teammate Mark Cavendish wished his friend a “ speedy recovery”, while heptathlete Jessica Ennis said: “It is very dangerous and you hear about some horrible accidents, and stories about what happens to cyclists, and I know he’s been campaigning about road safety, so it’s awful that’s happened to him but hopefully he can recover quickly and get back to it.”
His injuries are unlikely to cause too much disruption to his off-season training schedule, but campaigners are using the two incidents as an opportunity to call for greater awareness of cyclists on the road, especially since tens of thousands more amateur cyclists have taken to the streets in the wake of the London Games.
British Cycling released a statement saying: “Cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity but there is much more to be done to improve conditions for cyclists on the roads,” adding that the Government must “ensure that cycle safety is built into the design of all new roads, junctions and transport projects, rather than being an afterthought”.
AA President Edmund King said: “This collision should act as a reminder to all drivers that we need to be more vigilant particularly when pulling out of entrances and turning at junctions. We need to break down the ‘two tribe’ mentality on the roads and co-exist in harmony.”
Both Wiggins and Sutton were both wearing helmets at the time of their crashes, but Mark Sutton, Deputy editor of BikeBiz, said: “A helmet can’t prevent you being hit by a car. It’d do about as much good as putting a piece of melon on your head.”
Cycling expert Carlton Reid said special lanes for cyclists would not have prevented the two crashes. “It’s not recommended that you cycle at more than 15mph in a bike lane and these athletes cycle at the upper end of the speed limit. If it’s a 30mph zone they will be going at 30mph. And that’s a problem: when drivers see cyclists they think they’ll be going slowly – but that’s not necessarily the case.”
Comment: Two wheels still good, despite these collisions
By Simon Usborne
That riders with the skills of Bradley Wiggins and his coach could come to grief within hours of each other highlights the importance of road safety campaigns. It should boost them, too, but my big fear as a cyclist is not so much of errant vans but that such high-profile crashes will scare people off their bikes. Worse still, I fear they may fuel a culture of conflict on our roads that can only make them more dangerous.
Cycling is safer than coverage of crashes would lead would-be or worried riders to believe. The incidence of serious injuries and deaths has risen, however, even accounting for the growing number of riders. The Government and local authorities must do more to improve roads and promote awareness, but the risk of death or serious injury thankfully remains very low (lower, arguably, than the risk to the our nation’s hearts and lungs should fear reverse the cycling boom).
Evidence also shows that the more we ride, the more used to cyclists all road users become, increasing the safety of individuals. But with more riders seems to come growing animosity, particularly on the clogged streets of our cities. Drivers who hate cyclists have seized Wiggins’ crash. The cyclist’s wife, Catherine Wiggins, shared a relatively mild comment by “Ryan” on her Twitter feed: “You’d think Bradley Wiggins could afford a car by now, wouldn’t you? Bloody cyclists.”
Wiggins drives, of course. So do I and many cyclists. There are no tribes on our roads and if there is war it's between angry, impatient people, who exist regardless of the number of wheels beneath them. But if reasonable road users start repeating cries such as "bloody cyclists" or the myth that they don't pay road tax (it doesn't exist; we all pay for roads), then angry exchanges will become more common: more dangerous overtaking; more aggressive cycling; less care on either side of the windscreen. Regardless of the circumstances of these latest crashes, the failure of authorities, or your preferred mode of transport, one way we can all make roads safer is to open our eyes and be just a little bit nicer.