A BIKE safety group has called for more to be done to improve motorists’ attitudes to cyclists if safety is to be improved on the roads.
The Southampton Cycling Campaign believes a change in the law to create a presumption in favour of cyclists involved in collisions with motorists would help drive a change in behaviour.
The call comes after the Daily Echo revealed more cyclists were hurt on Hampshire’s roads last year than anywhere outside London .
A total of 816 riders were injured in 2011, up from 690 the previous year – and higher than every other police force area apart from the capital.
Olympic time trial gold medallist Bradley Wiggins sparked a safety debate after a 28-year-old cyclist was tragically knocked down by an official Olympic bus.
The Tour de France winner appeared to suggest that bike helmets should be the law, but later clarified his position saying he had not called for them to be made compulsory.
He said: “I suggested it may be the way to go to give cyclists more protection legally if involved in an accident.”
Southampton Cycling Campaign spokesman Dilys Gartside said she also did not agree that cyclists should always wear a helmet, as they were designed to protect riders in low impact collisions and gave no protection against “more powerful vehicles”.
Her friend Mark Brummell was killed in an accident while cycling in the New Forest in May this year. He was wearing a helmet.
She said statistics showed motorists tended to give less space when overtaking a helmeted cyclist and that helmets deterred some people, particularly women, from cycling.
Ms Gartside added compulsory helmets in other countries had caused a “severe drop” in cycling which made the roads more dangerous for remaining cyclists.
She said there needed to be more awareness and respect for cyclists from motorists and a willingness to regard them as equal road users.
She called for better training of cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians to behave with others’ safety in mind; more segregated cycling lanes and better designed roads with cyclists given higher priority by planners; and the introduction of a “strict liability” law, such as in European countries, creating a presumption in favour of cyclists and pedestrians involved in collisions with other road users.
British Cycling, the sport's governing body, has already made better road infrastructure rather than helmets its main priority.
Edmund King, president of Basingstoke based AA, agreed “attitudinal changes" were needed from all road users to improve cycle safety, although did not support presumed driver liability.
Mr King said while the AA advised cyclists to wear helmets it was not convinced they should be compulsory.
Hampshire law firm Moore Blatch Resolve, which works with cycle accidents victims, has called for the Government to act and introduce a clear manifesto for how to reduce serious cycle injuries.
The injured cyclist, Innes Marlow, 49, said: “I strongly back any move to increase safety for cyclists. I’ve always been a keen cyclist but I regularly see near misses and drivers putting other road users at risk.
“When you are involved in an accident yourself it comes as a stark wake-up call. I was very lucky not to have been seriously injured but I have been left with a reminder in the form of an ongoing dislocated shoulder problem and scarring. I can’t believe people ride around without a helmet. It’s bonkers.”