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Cyclists fear for safety on far north roads

By Will Clark

John Sinclair was among the victims of the recent spate of accidents.
John Sinclair was among the victims of the recent spate of accidents.

CYCLISTS have pulled out of a race this weekend because of safety concerns heightened by three club riders having been the victims of accidents in Caithness over the past three months.

One of them yesterday claimed motorists are not giving enough respect to cyclists and believes the toll of accidents will continue unless drivers change their attitudes behind the wheel.

Caithness Cycling Club member John Sinclair was hospitalised for 13 days after being struck by a vehicle from behind when a driver attempted to overtake him on the A9 on the outskirts of Thurso on Friday, July 8. His pelvis was fractured in two places and he suffered severe bruising across his body.

The 79-year-old, of Royal Terrace, Thurso is recovering, but he has been left suffering from dropped foot and still has bruises on his arms and legs. He has been a member of the club for more than 25 years and has cycled over 118,000 miles.

He claims speeding and dangerous overtaking are the two main issues.

Despite a number of serious accidents and fatalities in the far north in recentyears, Mr Sinclair said some drivers continue to put cyclists at risk as they pass them.

“I remember nothing about it,” he said of his own accident.

“I was riding my bike one moment, the next I had woken up on the side of the verge. I didn’t know what had happened and somebody had to tell me that I had been hit.

“Some drivers don’t know how to overtake cyclists and leave little room when they attempt to pass you by.

“Even on a straight road when it is clear there is no oncoming traffic, they will not go fully into the other carriageway.“They will only leave a slight gap when they are passing – I just don’t understand why they don’t give us more room.

“Sometimes it is unbelievable the lack of space they leave.”

Two members of Wick Wheelers have also been involved in accidents in the last two months.

A male rider was knocked off his bike on Sunday, August 14 between Watten and Bilbster and earlier this month a female rider was knocked off after being struck by a car at Lyth.

Neither of the cyclists involved wished to comment, with one fearing repercussions from motorists if he identified himself.

Club member Peta Donachie said as a result of the three accidents, some riders have pulled out of Sunday’s Tour of Caithness.

She said: “It would seem a few of the participants have been put off attending this event due to the recent run of road accidents which have involved club members.

“During my time cycling, I think drivers’ attitudes towards cyclists have got better.

“But over the years, I think the roads have become busier, especially with the extra traffic which is travelling on the North Coast 500.

“There is always going to be a need for improvement.”

Wick Wheelers secretary Christopher Oakley said the last three months has seen a high number of accidents in the county involving cyclists.

He struggled to think of measures which could address the issue.

He said: “In the last 18 months, there have been four serious accidents, with three in the last three months.“We always take precautions by wearing bright clothing and helmets.

“It is a problem and we don’t know how to make it go away.”

Mr Sinclair is in no doubt that speed plays a large part in the accidents.

He said: “The main problem is drivers don’t leave enough time to get to where they are going and it puts cyclists in danger.

“Drivers need to treat cyclists like any vehicle they are attempting to overtake, but they don’t. I don’t blame cyclists being put off riding on Caithness roads – they are right to be cautious given the number of accidents.”

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