Archive for ‘Road Safety’

5 March, 2015

Cycling to work: thoughts from our man on two wheels

As part of RoSPA’s Family Safety Week, Matt Cryer, our awards and events development manager, blogs on his reflections as a part-time cycle-commuter in Birmingham. The views contained are Matt’s own.

I live five miles from RoSPA’s head office. I cycle in around three days a week, using a combination of roads and traffic-free cycle paths, depending on the time of year. Here are my top tips and observations about how to safely enjoy riding to work.

Bike white wall 2Know your bike, kit and route

First and foremost, get to know your bike, and make sure it’s well maintained. This not only makes your bike safer, but also quieter and easier to ride. I’ve not always been great at this – noisy gears or squeaky brakes don’t inspire confidence and can hamper your enjoyment of riding to work.

Before heading out, I always give my bike a visual check (see the M-check safety video for how to quickly carry this out), and make sure my tyres are correctly inflated, as under-inflation makes them more prone to puncture from on-road debris. Finally, I check that my lights are working, and that I have a spare set of batteries. I also choose to wear a helmet and a high-visibility reflective jacket to improve my visibility to other road users.

Before you head out, choose a route you are comfortable with. You can often avoid heavy traffic and tricky junctions without making your commute much longer. For example, during the darker winter months, I tend to commute primarily on the road, but in the lighter months, I have the alternative of combining this with unlit cycle paths, which reduces risk by letting me cycle away from other traffic.

Build your Confidence

It’s easy to feel vulnerable on city roads and to want to hug the gutter to stay away from traffic. However, this isn’t the safest place. Gutter debris, painted lines and drain covers all make this a risky position to take on the road – particularly when it’s wet. On roads with parked vehicles, you’re also putting yourself in the “door zone”, at risk of colliding with opening vehicle doors.

I found reading up on road positioning to be really helpful. Learning about the primary (centre of traffic lane) and secondary (approx 0.5m-1m from kerb) positions and when to use them will transform the way you ride. Good positioning, clear hand signals and regular looks over your shoulder will help make traffic aware of your direction and intentions, and much less likely to squeeze you with an overtake where there’s not really enough room.

Bounce back

Vehicles will occasionally squeeze you with an overtake where there’s not really enough room. Not everyone makes good decisions, but don’t let it knock your confidence, or make you unreasonably angry, as both these states of mind affect your own judgement and concentration as you continue to ride. Just carry on riding positively and positioning your bike carefully – or take time out to calm down.

Don’t get too confident

Having been a cycle commuter for some time, I often feel my biggest risk is over-confidence. I enjoy riding in traffic, and making faster progress than other vehicles can definitely give you a buzz. But it’s easy to want to make progress at all costs, which can sometimes go against good judgement.

Be particularly careful when moving past stationary traffic, which won’t always be looking out for you.

While it might feel safer, make sure you only ever filter on the left if there is no chance that the traffic will start flowing suddenly.

From experience, drivers are less likely to check their left-hand mirror in heavy traffic and you don’t want to be caught on the inside of a long vehicle if it starts moving – particularly if it chooses to turn left. This is one of the most common causes of fatal cycling accidents, due to vehicle blind-spots.

Matt cycle gear 2

Matt Cryer, RoSPA’s awards and events development manager, in his cycling gear.

In stationary traffic, also be extra aware of pedestrians, who may register that vehicle traffic has stopped and step into the road without looking out for cyclists. This one nearly caught me out just last week. I avoided the pedestrian, but ended up in an undignified heap on the floor.

Most of all, enjoy it!

With careful maintenance, thought-out road positioning and confidence, I find cycling to work extremely enjoyable and great for keeping fit.

Be sure to check out the Family Safety Week website for more advice on cycle safety for you and your family.

9 September, 2014

A message from your virtual coach

Cycling legend Shane Sutton has sent his support to Securitas UK staff as they do a virtual cycling tour of the UK to raise funds for RoSPA.

Hi Guys,

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for getting involved and increasing awareness in something that is not only relevant to our strategy at British Cycling and Sky Racing of increasing rider participation from all walks of life, but also something that has impacted me personally, which is the safety of our cyclists on the road.

If we are to achieve these goals then we need to ensure that not just cyclists but all road users become aware of the dangers and hopefully make our roads safer for everyone.

Shane Sutton

Shane Sutton

You may be aware that Bradley and I were involved in serious road collisions recently which landed both of us in hospital, which just goes to show that even professional cyclists are not immune to the dangers of our busy roads.

Thankfully Brad went on to win a yellow jersey and I was quickly back on my bike, but it could have easily been a lot more serious. The point is that motorists are on the whole not use to, or aware of, cyclists and the dangers they face on a daily basis and that is why I am delighted and very grateful to you all for giving your time and energy to this great campaign which really will highlight the need for safer cycling on our roads.

I’m sorry that I am not able to attend your virtual tour, as I will be involved in our own tour of Britan, but I will be thinking of you and the great work you are doing.

Aberdeen to Uxbridge is a long ride so there will be some tough times ahead and no doubt some fine saddle sores to compare but remember pain is temporary, achieving your goal lasts forever. Pedal hard and have some fun as you ride.

Good luck to you all and I will be checking on your results.

Shane Sutton OBE (Your virtual Coach!)

1 September, 2014

Back to school – Lifesaving tips for drivers and parents

Ah, September. The smell of diesel fumes hangs heavy in the air, the pavements overflow with sleep-deprived children, while commuters attempt to contort their bodies to squash sardine-like into creaking buses and trains. It can only mean one thing – school’s back! Whether you’re a parent or driver, it’s important that you take extra care on the roads this car_kidsautumn and encourage your children to do the same. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to make the morning and evening commute that little bit safer!

For parents:

Using the car

• Check that your child is correctly restrained. If you’re planning to carry any extra children make sure that you have the age-appropriate child seat. Please see the RoSPA’s dedicated website – – for more car seats advice.

• Choose a safe place to drop your child off near to the school. Aim for somewhere where you won’t cause congestion and danger to those walking or cycling to school.

• Talk to your children about road safety on your way to school, stress the importance of wearing a seatbelt.

 Walking to school

• If you are planning to let your child walk to school on their own for    the first time, talk to them about the route they child_handwill use and the  dangers they may encounter. Watch your child so that you can judge whether they have the ability to cross roads safely on their route to school.

• Children learn by watching adults. If walking your child to school, talk to them about how they can keep themselves safe and always try to set a good example when crossing the road.

Cycling to school

Cycling is a fun and healthy way to get to school, especially if a few simple precautions are taken:

• If your child is planning to cycle to school, check that their bike is in good working order. Ensure the brakes work, the tyres are pumped up and the saddle and handlebars are securely tightened.

Family and friends cycling• Plan the route they will take and consider cycling it with them for the first time.

• RoSPA recommends that a helmet be worn at all times.

For drivers:

• Be extra observant and keep a watchful eye for children walking and cycling to school, they might be distracted and excited.

• Reduce your speed where you see lots of children, especially near to schools. If you are driving at 30mph and a child runs out, your stopping distance will be at least 23 metres.

• Rushing causes accidents – give yourself more time for your journey and never be tempted to speed!

For more vital health and safety guides, facts and advice, sign up to SafetyMatters, RoSPA’s free fortnightly newsletter!

Nick Lloyd, RoSPA road safety manager

8 July, 2014

Breakdown dramas for the “slow” kings of the open road

Part two of Roger Bibbings’ story of the “East to West Slowly” challenge.

Roger, our "easy rider" is pictured on the right.

Roger, our “easy rider” is pictured on the right.

The party started out promptly at 8.30am from the foot of the giant wind turbine named Gulliver at Ness Point, in Lowestoft, on Saturday, June 21, seen off by the Mayor, Councillor Roger Belham, himself a former motorcyclist.

The route ran past Bungay towards Diss and Thetford and out towards Huntingdon. A coffee stop at pub in the Cambridgeshire village of Wicken led to a conversation with the landlady who revealed that her son had been run over on the drive when he was three, although remarkably he had not been seriously hurt (driveway accidents are clearly more common than is realised).

After skirting Northampton, the riders made their way by lanes to Banbury and then towards Stow-on-the-Wold, stopping briefly to see the solstice celebrations at the Rollright Stones.

Following an overnight stop in and around Malvern the group headed off west the next day, stopping for a hearty breakfast at the Buttley Tea rooms at Winforton near Hay.

The LE, which had been unused for the best part of 30 years but was carefully recommissioned for the trip by John Bradshaw, performed well on the way out to Lowestoft and over to Malvern. But approaching Brecon its ancient electrical system suddenly cried “enough!”

After nearly two hours of fruitless fault finding the decision was reached that the three remaining bikes should press on to the finish, taking a scenic route over the Black Mountain to Carmarthen but thereafter sticking to the A40 to make up time.Roger Bibbings 2_E2WS_2014 smaller

Approaching Haverfordwest they were met by about a dozen riders from the Pembrokeshire Vintage and Classic Motorcycle club, who had heard about the ride. They kindly escorted the three MZ machines on the final leg to meet the mayoral party at 5.30pm. Speeches were made and photos taken, including by the local press.

Phil Speakman then rode straight back to Liverpool, while the other two riders and Phillip Thwaites enjoyed the culinary delights of St Davids.

The next day was not without its dramas. Peter Henshaw’s MZ 250 expired on the way home with an obscure short circuit high up on the Black Mountain. With no mobile phone contact up there, the last remaining machine, the trusty little 150 MZ, with only 10 horsepower, had to be pressed into service to take a rider and pillion plus luggage (combined weight more than 30stone) to civilisation to summon recovery.

All in all, though, it was a great adventure undertaken in glorious sunshine.

The appeal for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety Campaign is ongoing. And plans are afoot for another “slow” motorcycle challenge in 2015.

1 July, 2014

East to West (eventually)

Roger Bibbings shares the story of an incredible fundraising road trip, ‘East to West Slowly’.

With minutes to spare, but still travelling at a steady 35–40mph, three motorcyclists on vintage two-stroke machines wound their way along the Pembrokeshire coast road to a rendezvous with the Mayor of St David’s.

Roger Bibbings_E2WS_2014 smaller This was the culmination of a two-day ride across Britain from Lowestoft to St Justinian’s lifeboat station at the most westerly tip of Wales to raise money for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety campaign.

At least 29 children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their homes since 2001. Sadly, in most cases, an adult member of the child’s family, a neighbour or a visitor was driving the vehicle. The campaign raises awareness of simple measures that drivers can take to prevent such tragedies.

Building on the similar ‘End to End Slowly’ trip last year from Land’s End to John O’Groats, the ride was held on June 21 (the longest day) and 22.

It attracted six riders, although in the end only three, journalist Peter Henshaw, MZ spares guru Phil Speakman and myself, the organiser, made it to meet the mayor, Councillor David Halse, who came in a wartime BSA sidecar driven by fellow councillor Malcolm Gray. Councillor Halse kindly presented a cheque of £50 on behalf of St David’s City Council.

Participants were on small vintage motorcycles. The party included two early 1970s East German MZ 250s, two MZRoger Bibbings 4_E2WS_2014 smaller 150s and a late 1960s LE Velocette ridden by retired university lecturer and motoring writer, John Bradshaw. Ian McGregor, who was recovering from a recent heart operation, decided to follow in his camper van.

The idea behind making the ride a ‘slow’ challenge was to savour the pleasure that is to be had from travelling slowly on two wheels using minor roads as much as possible. You see, smell and remember so much more.

And the route offered a fascinating series of vistas, from the flatlands of the Fens to the high sandstone peaks of South Wales.

Unfortunately, Phillip Thwaites had to withdraw after his MZ 150 developed main bearing trouble. Gallantly, though, he limped home and got out his BMW 850 GS to meet the finishers in St David’s. But his was not to be the only mechanical drama…

You can find out about the ride itself next week. In the meantime, you can still donate to the campaign here.

17 June, 2014

Easy rider hits the road – slowly

When you hear the word ‘motorcycle’, you tend to think of a lean machine zipping through the traffic. It’s a vehicle often associated with speed, yet I’m heading off on a slow motorcycle challenge this week to raise £500 for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety campaign.

Roger B bike picIt’s the e2w slowly challenge and it takes place on the 21 and 22 June.

I’ll be riding my trusty 1979 TS150 MZ to raise money for RoSPA’s campaign, because at least 27 children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their homes since 2001.

Tragically, in most of these cases, an adult member of the child’s family, a neighbour or a visitor to the house was driving the vehicle.

RoSPA has been working to raise awareness of driveway dangers among the parents, carers and grandparents of young children. And with your help, they can do more.

My fellow riders and I will be set off from the most easterly part of Great Britain in Lowestoft on the longest day of the year and finish up in St David’s, the most westerly point, at sunset the next day.

We will ride vintage motorcycles, mostly over 25 years old and under 200cc, and travel mainly on minor roads. We will carry all camping gear, tools and supplies (except water and petrol) on our bikes and¬ there will be no backup vehicle.

Please help me to raise life-saving funds for RoSAPA. You can donate by visiting

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s retired occupational safety adviser

13 May, 2014

Safer Streets for everyone – join the movement, make a difference!

Here at RoSPA, we want to see safer streets that encourage walking and cycling not only because it helps to prevent injuries, but also because it has a positive effect on a range of health-related issues, including heart disease, mental health and air pollution.

PrintMaking these links between safer roads and wider health issues are crucial. They can have a big impact on families too. Imagine being able to make the journey to school by bike, scooter or on foot without fear of being knocked down by speeding traffic. How would your children feel? Energised, happy, healthy…the list is endless.

Helping to make this vision a reality is Sustrans – which aims to help people choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys and enjoy better, safer spaces to live in. This week, Sustrans is launching a new campaign for Safer Streets and needs your support. The campaign is calling for:

  • 20mph default speed limits across built up areas – this will make everyone’s route safer
  • Dedicated funding for active travel – this will provide the resources needed to transform routes and invest in walking and cycling locally
  • Stronger duties and incentives on local authorities to develop routes and promote cycling and walking.

On the Sustrans website, you can find out more about getting support for making your street safer by creating a “DIY Street” – a tool to enable communities to take vital first steps to restore their streets for people and not cars.

Earlier this year, we unveiled new guidance for road safety and public health professionals to help boost the nation’s health. The report reveals that the greatest impact can be achieved when public health and road safety teams tackle shared agendas, such as working together to reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic or introducing road layouts that encourage safe walking and cycling.Sustrans_Safetoschool

And let us not underestimate the benefits of introducing 20mph speed limits in built up areas; lower speeds make crashes less likely and less severe when they do happen and are effective at protecting people, especially children, pedestrians and cyclists from being killed or injured. They also encourage more people to walk and cycle by providing a more pleasant and safer environment.

Councils are responsible for determining where 20mph limits should be introduced and they should take advantage of opportunities to implement them where they are needed. And this is where you come in! As part of the process, councils consult and engage with local communities and other stakeholders to make sure that safer roads are prioritised where needed and that residents have input into the schemes’ development. What are you waiting for? Get involved!

Duncan Vernon, RoSPA’s road safety manager

1 May, 2014

Farewell to Mrs Tufty

The school children of Torfaen County Borough Council have said an emotional farewell to Mrs Tufty.

Cake!Viv Carr, who delivers road safety education with the able assistance of Tufty and his friends, said goodbye to the schools she has visited in her role as under sevens organiser, or more commonly, Mrs Tufty, as she retired after 27 years.

Zach Evans, year six pupil at Croesyceiliog Primary School, summed up the feeling of the whole school in a beautifully hand written letter: “Your lessons were entertaining and light hearted…and your puppet friends…will stick in the mind for many generations. Your messages well worded and your activities original and fun.”

One of the hazards of being Mrs Tufty was being recognised in many places – in the supermarket, at the swimming pool and even on a Spanish beach! Viv also reckons there were times when she had more conversations in a day with Tufty than she had with her husband.

Colleagues past and present say goodbye to Mrs Tufty

Colleagues past and present say goodbye to Mrs Tufty (centre, wearing a burnt orange scarf)

Viv’s car was broken into some years ago, and the thieves stole all of her puppets.  Could it have had something to do with Willy Weasel’s naughty friends? It made headlines in the South Wales Argus, and despite pleas for them to be returned they remain lost to this day.

Colleagues past and present gathered at Llanyrafon Manor in Cwmbran to wish Viv well in her retirement.  Penny Thorpe, former principal road safety officer for Gwent, presented Viv with a memento from Road Safety Wales marking the contribution she has made to road safety during her career.

Want to find out more about RoSPA’s retired road safety squirrel? Visit

Ann Horton, RoSPA Wales’ road safety officer

11 April, 2014

CASE STUDY: Creating a safer highway with the public’s help

How can the public be helped to spend their devolved funds on the best road safety measures?

An example for Bristol:

ZebraIn Bristol, all money for small scale highway improvements are devolved to the public. It works with 14 “neighbourhood partnerships” which discuss local issues at forum meetings.  The public can attend these meetings to express concern and suggest solutions. Highway issues are a common theme at these meetings.  In 2014-15, between £30,000 and £46,000 is allocated to each partnership for highway improvements.

The majority of highway concerns raised relate directly to road safety.

However, internally at Bristol City Council (BCC), there were concerns that the traffic schemes chosen by communities to address safety concerns were not always the most effective.  For some issues highlighted by partnerships, the chosen remedy has not been the most effective according to robust research.refuge_island_l2

Adrian Davis and I are public health academics and we started a project to help neighbourhoods address safety concerns on Bristol’s highways using the most effective measures. This involved finding peer reviewed and case study evidence for particular road safety measures, and assessing if the research was robust enough to include as evidence.

This information was then prepared for members of the public. It was summarised into easy-to-digest information for each remedy, and was written with no jargon, and avoiding an overbearing tone.  A brief description accompanies each traffic safety measure, with advantages, disadvantages, and most importantly, how effective the measure is at increasing safety.

For the widest possible reach, the information has been published on the Traffic Choices website The site groups highway safety measures into two main “problem” areas: crossing the road and preventing speeding.  By browsing these groups, it’s now much easier for Bristol residents to get a good idea of what highway schemes are available, and which one might work best on their road.  Each scheme is accompanied by a rough price estimate, so residents can establish what their partnership budget might afford.

DIY_street_l1To help improve engagement, and make the information more accessible, three videos have been produced, creating a more concise summary of the most popular safety measures.  One video was made for crossing, another speeding, and a final video to explain the neighbourhood partnership process in Bristol.  With “real-world” on-screen moving examples from Bristol, the videos provide a commentary on safety effects for each of the chosen safety measures and help to draw in viewers to use the site. The videos have been one of the most popular aspects of the project.

During the coming year, the website will be expanded with evidence on more safety measures requested by the public. It will also include a “live” tracker of issues currently logged by BCC, and will display the progress of any traffic schemes in development to help address these issues.

View the traffic schemes on Traffic Choices.

James Coleman, Bristol City Council 

27 January, 2014

A Walk on the Safeside

I was a child in the 1970s, when, as the cliché goes, we had to make our own entertainment.

A young Helen Halls.

A young Helen Halls.

Growing up in a small Yorkshire town, I played outside, walked to school and was off on my bike for hours. Mobile phones hadn’t been invented, so my parents couldn’t call to summon me home.

Being out and about from an early age, I learnt about risks and keeping safe largely through experience, though I was in the Tufty Club and did my RoSPA cycling proficiency test.

Helen now as RoSPA's campaigns officer.

Helen now as RoSPA’s campaigns officer.

Today, many children are ferried to and from school/activities and spend free time online or on a games console, so they don’t get the opportunities to experience risk that we old goats had. 

Plus, the rise of the internet has led to new dangers online.

Which is why LASER (Learning About Safety by Experiencing Risk) centres are a great idea, giving children the opportunity to experience risk and learn how to stay safe in an interesting, interactive way.

As RoSPA hosts the LASER Alliance, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Safeside, Birmingham’s LASER centre.

The Safeside 'village'.

The Safeside ‘village’.

Run by West Midlands Fire Service, it boasts a full-size indoor street scene featuring a road crossing, bus, train, canal, car, home, pub, dark alleyway, police station – and more.

Children learn about many aspects of safety via scenarios, activities, videos and discussion. They work with presenters, guides and even students from the Birmingham School of Acting.

Safeside presenter Dave Bailey.

Safeside presenter Dave Bailey.

It’s a practical, at times shocking, but fun way for children to get to grips with real life issues and consider what they should do in those situations.

And it works: presenter Dave Bailey tells us of children he first met at primary school who come back to the centre in their teens.

They often tell him about situations where they’ve used what they learned at Safeside – it really has saved lives.

If you’re a parent group, nursery, SureStart or school, I’d really recommend organising a visit to Safeside.

To find out more about Safeside and its activities , click here.

Helen Halls, RoSPA campaigns officer.

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