By Laura Cress
For students at York who don’t live on campus, a bicycle is often the only way to get to that 9:15 seminar group without having to pay for it. However, though most students by now know the risks of not locking their bike up – either by the warning tags that the North Yorkshire Police have placed onto bicycles or by their own experience of losing a bike (York City Council have reported that over 1,000 bikes are stolen every year in York) – a recent York tragedy has raised the issue of more serious risks associated with cycling.
Just two weeks ago, cyclist and York resident Derek Duffill was killed after colliding with a car on a mini roundabout, suffering fatal head injuries. While Derek was not a student, the point remains that cyclists are often ignored by motorists and therefore have to be extremely vigilant, especially on busy roads. The dangers might seem obvious enough, but perhaps a similar attitude to bike thefts exists in relation to road safety – ‘it’ll never happen to me.’
York was rated as one of the safest places to cycle in the UK this year in a national survey, but it only takes one mistake or moment of carelessness to cause an accident. On the tragic accident, City of York Councillor Joe Watt commented that: “I think one of the lessons for cyclists is that they have to cycle defensively and be visible. Wearing a helmet can also make the difference.” However, students on the whole are unlikely to take this advice, with one student questioning the need for such protection compared to the hassle involved: “a helmet is just not something I would bother with. For me it’s a question of where I would put it once I’d finished cycling; it would just become a pain.”
With a rise in cycling-related accidents expected during the winter months, this could prove a dangerous attitude to take, especially given the recent icy weather. Whether or not to wear equipment such as helmets and high visibility jackets remains the cyclist’s choice, though the Highway Code states that at night, cyclists must have white front and red rear lights lit. However, though police can pull over cyclists without lights to give them a warning, there’s little else that can be done to enforce this rule. With snow and poor weather conditions expected to continue when students come back for the Spring term in January, it seems that most students will continue to ignore the risks posed by cycling. The tragic case of Derek Duffill demonstrates why they would be wise not to.