Fire and police use light touch to keep cyclists safe

(photos above show colleagues from fire and rescue and poilce fitting lights and giving advice to cyclists in Oxford)

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service’s Road Safety Education Team and colleagues from Thames Valley Police joined forces to raise the profile of cycle safety in Oxford last night.

Police stopped cyclists seen riding without lights but, in an effort to try and educate riders, instead of receiving a penalty ticket, they were offered a free set of bicycle lights, fitted by Fire and Rescue Service officers.

In the two hours from 7-9pm on Oxford High Street, 57 sets (front  and rear) lights were given out to cyclists . All of those invited to take the lights and education message did so.

Shining a light on cycle safety

According to official figures in 2017, 300 cyclists were injured in Oxfordshire in a reported accident.

Over half of those injured in Oxfordshire where one of the causes listed was ‘cyclist wearing dark clothing/cyclist no lights’ were in the city of Oxford.

As well as posing a danger, cycling after dark without lights is also illegal and those breaking the rules face fines.

Reducing road casualties

Andy Ford, Road Safety Manager at the County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, said, “We are trying to reduce road casualties. There are lots of reasons for the cyclist casualties but, by ensuring cyclists have lights we can easily improve their visibility to other road users, reducing the risk they will be hit by drivers.

“We are beginning the campaign in Oxford because over half of those injured in Oxfordshire where one of the causes listed was ‘cyclist wearing dark clothing/cyclist no lights’ were in the city of Oxford.

“Those cyclists who have a free set bicycle lights fitted will be asked complete a short questionnaire. We are also keen to find out from adult cyclists if they’d be interested in practical training, to help improve their safety and confidence riding on busy roads.”

Police will return

The police will be returning the following days to continue to not only raise awareness of the danger of not riding with lights after sunset, but also addressing driver behaviour around cyclists with their Give Space Be Safe Campaign, often known as close pass.

Road Safety Sergeant Rob Heard, from the Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit, said: “A close pass not only presents danger to the cyclist but it’s also intimidating. Drivers should be allowing other road users as much room they would a car – but many seem to not know this, or choose to ignore it.

Be safe, be seen

As well as promoting the use of lights and high visibility clothing to cyclists, the Road Safety Team also encourage cyclists to ensure they have a properly maintained/road worthy bicycle, get more training if they feel they need it and wear a cycle helmet in case they fall off their bike.

In addition, the county council offers all primary schools in Oxfordshire the opportunity to provide cycle training to their 9-11 year old students.

Children taking part in cycle training (National Standard level 1 & 2) learn about rules of the road, rights of way and how to make safer decisions, on the move in traffic. Almost 2,600 children benefit each year from these vital safety lessons, with a further 185 youngsters receiving similar from the government grant scheme, Bikeability.

It is illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without lights and reflectors. Exactly which lights and reflectors, where to fit them and when to light up, is defined by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations.

Essentially, the minimum is:

  • Lights (and reflectors) are required on a pedal cycle only between sunset and sunrise.
  • Lights (and reflectors) are not required when the cycle is stationary or being pushed along the roadside.
  • When they are required, the lights and reflectors listed below must be clean and working properly.

Any offences are dealt with in Thames Valley by way of a diversion course which is an on-line learning package which cost £30 or a fixed penalty notice of £50 with no option to do a diversion course.