With the Tour de Yorkshire coming through Barnsley earlier this month the Penistone Area is establishing itself as a cycle racing route where the spectacle can be enjoyed live by residents and the many visitors alike. Much credit is due to local groups and Council staff for all their hard work in making the event an outstanding success. Only disappointed that I was unable to witness it myself as I was participating in an entirely different race, that of the Local Election count, with more success than I ever had riding a bicycle!
How things have changed. The first recorded appearance of a bicycle in Barnsley was in May 1869 when the local press reported that “…a Mr W. Railton has been practicing upon one in Dodworth Road for some days and he has already acquired considerable dexterity in its management.” The report goes on to observe that bicycles have already been “…tried seriously as a conveyance for the local mail…” Maybe that was how they used to manage two deliveries per day.
Now cycles are commonplace on our roads but those same roads see a level and speed of traffic which our forefathers could never have imagined. Once consequence is the number of road accidents and the disproportionate impact on cyclists and indeed riders of motorcycles and horses. For example in 2015 for every billion passenger/miles there were 1.8 fatalities amongst drivers and passengers in cars. The relatively low figure may have much to do with design improvements with cars now having seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control as well as incorporating the concept of a safety cage. Cyclists fare worse with 30.9 fatalities per billion passenger/miles and riders of motorcycles suffering staggering 122.3 road deaths. Whilst the speeds these modes of transport can achieve has increased the riders remain exposed and vulnerable in a collision with a heavier vehicle or static feature. Whatever the manufacturers try to do in order to minimise the risks they cannot overcome Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law – “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Readers will know that our narrow, often winding roads are being expected to cope with a seemingly endless increase in traffic flow, something which is exacerbated by new building and reduced public transport options. We all have to use the same highway so please spare a thought for other road users. A cyclist may be coming round the next bend or a rider might be struggling to control an horse startled by the sudden noise of a motor vehicle. We all need to ease off the accelerator at times even if it adds a few minutes to our journeys.
First published by the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living - May 2018