Revealed: Top ten danger roads for cyclists in Leeds

Bikers try out the City Connect Cycling Superhighway last June.
Bikers try out the City Connect Cycling Superhighway last June.

The dangers of cycling on some of Leeds’ busiest roads have been revealed as new figures show the riskiest spots for pedal bikers in the city.

Statistics, which are released by the Yorkshire Evening Post after a Freedom of Information request, show that 1,667 accidents involving bikers happened from January 2012 up to April of this year.

The Yorkshire Evening Post figures.

The Yorkshire Evening Post figures.

Four fatal, 282 serious and 1,381 slight accidents were recorded in that time amid a huge surge in cycling across the city.

The most dangerous road for bikers was the A660, a 10-mile stretch from the city centre through Headingley and up to Otley, which topped the chart for the number of incidents each year from 2012 at 182.

And the worst period was 2014, with 350 accidents recorded in the same year that the Tour de France set off from The Headrow.

One cyclist who was knocked off his bike a year ago, tearing the tendons in his shoulder, said he comes close to having another accident or receives abuse from drivers angered by the “maelstrom of modern life” around once a month.

The Tour de France sets off from The Headrow in 2014.

The Tour de France sets off from The Headrow in 2014.

Campaigners have now called for more infrastructure to be put in place to ensure the risks are addressed.

Fran Parnell, a spokewoman for national road safety charity Brake, said: “The statistics for crashes involving cyclists in Leeds are shocking – four families have suffered the pain of losing a loved one, and 282 people have suffered life-changing injuries.

“Everybody has the right to walk or cycle to school, to work or around their local community without fearing for their life.

“We appeal to the city council to investigate the cause of the collisions on the A660 in particular, reducing speed limits, improving visibility at junctions and installing cycling infrastructure as necessary to make the road safer. We also ask drivers to look out for cyclists and other vulnerable road users, and keep their speed down.”

Coun Richard Lewis.

Coun Richard Lewis.

The average number of cyclists taking to the road on weekdays in Leeds has soared from below 600 in 2004 to a peak of nearly 1,900 in 2015, before settling at around 1,700 last year.

And the A660 consistently racked up the highest number of accidents across the city from 2012 until early 2017, with 182 recorded during that time. This includes 28 serious accidents.

Serious accidents are categorised as those causing injuries for which a person goes to hospital as an in patient, or those who suffer fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns, severe cuts, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the incident.

The A65, which stretches from the city centre to Menston, taking in Kirkstall Road, Abbey Road, Rawdon, Guiseley and Horsforth, is the second most dangerous in Leeds with 136 accidents since 2012.

And third is the A61, which includes the city centre loop and Scott Hall Road out towards Harrogate, with 73 incidents.

These are followed by the A58, A6120, A653, B6157, A64, A650 and A6110, which had 198 accidents recorded between them.

Paul Knights, a member of Otley Cycle Club, was riding on the road through Bramhope in June 2016 when a driver opened her door and knocked him to ground, leaving him unconscious in the street.

Police and an ambulance arrived at scene before he was taken to Leeds General Infirmary. Suffering damage to his shoulder tendons, he needed three weeks off work at Highways England.

He recently had an MRI scan and is still suffering problems. The former squash regular can no longer play because of the injury.

His wife Alison and daughter Millie, nine, also fear for his safety.

“My daughter was in tears when she came to see me in hospital,” he said.

“When my wife said, ‘Daddy’s been knocked off his bike’, she was really, really worried. She waits for the call that something has happened.”

Mr Knights, 43, of Pool Road, added: “Certainly once a month I’m having to slam on the brakes because of someone cutting in front of me, someone coming out of a side street or someone chucking things at me.”

Drivers have shouted abuse at Mr Knights while he is out riding, he said.

“I feel the sense of risk. It’s a lovely ride all the way up to the urban area. The sheer numbers of pedestrians and cars. There are so many hazards and pitfalls.”

Speaking about why he thinks drivers are angered by cyclists, he said: “It’s people’s frustration at the congestion. These things don’t happen on the quieter roads. These things happen when we are fighting for space. It’s there where the aggression grows.

“It’s almost like the maelstrom of modern life where people are angry and want to get to work and I’m the victim, but I’m just getting to work.”

But Mr Knights said he will not give up cycling, believing it to be the most convenient mode of transport in Leeds and a great leisure pursuit which affords him “freedom” to clear his head during his commute home.

Although he acknowledges that cyclists need to behave according to the rules of the road, and sees them not doing so often, he thinks that infrastructure is the way to alleviate the pressures.

Martin Stanley, the chairman of the Leeds Cycling Campaign, is calling for more “protected infrastructure” to keep those pedalling around the city out of harm’s way.

“What we see every single time from every single survey is people perceived cycling as being too dangerous," he said.

The only way we get around that is by providing protected infrastructure. It’s safer and that’s a fact. And it makes people feel safe so they are then more inclined to use a bike.”

He added: “The most effective thing is infrastructure, you see that from the Continent. The risk of serious harm and death is miniscule compared to what we see in this country.”

Much of this was down to the behaviour of drivers and “to a lesser extent” the behaviour of cyclists.

“What you find in Continental cities across Europe, because more people cycle as part of their daily life, more people that are drivers are also cyclists. They know how to drive around cyclists.”

Mr Stanley said the A660 is a “prime candidate” for new safety features.

He believes that any road where the speed limit is above 30mph should have “protected infrastructure”: hard kerbs which are clearly marked for the use of cyclists or bollards separating a biking area from the main lanes.

Residential streets could also be limited to pedestrians and cyclists only, he said.

Council response

Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Coun Richard Lewis said: “Cycling participation in Leeds has trebled in the last decade partly as a result of the unforgettable Tour de France Grand Départ and other high-profile events like the Tour de Yorkshire and the City Ride.

"We have also chosen to invest in cycling infrastructure in order to help people get about safely on two wheels, with the Core Cycle Network across Leeds and the City Connect Cycle Scheme connecting Leeds and Bradford. Cycling is now a key consideration in all our transport plans, with City Connect 2 in the city centre recently receiving executive board approval and the Cycling Starts Here strategy set to be announced shortly.

“We know there is always more to be done, especially in terms of raising awareness for all road users to be respectful of each other to reduce the number of collisions. We work with all schools in the city promoting safe cycling and also have training and information for drivers on giving cyclists space.

"As one of the busiest roads in the city ensuring cyclist safety on the A660 is an ongoing challenge that we have been working to achieve.

"For example, we have recently worked with West Yorkshire Police on a trial of their ‘Close Pass’ initiative, starting with the A660, which has proven effective in other cities in educating drivers of the need to give cyclists space when passing them.”