Rise in traffic is making it unsafe to ride, cyclists fear
Drivers are being urged to be more aware of cyclists on Shetland’s roads amid fresh safety concerns among riders.
The Shetland Wheelers Club, which holds regular time trails for 10 and 25-mile circuits, has noted an increase in the number of “near miss” incidents, where drivers have come within inches of harming fellow road users.
Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson has found himself in tight spots on the road numerous times as a result of what he called fairly reckless driving.
“I was cycling at the south end of Girlsta and I looked up to find a car coming towards me, overtaking another car,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t a nice experience; there wasn’t anywhere to go because of a drop into a ditch on my left. “It was close enough I could’ve touched it. People think they can just squeeze past between a car and a bicycle.”
Cycling enthusiast Arwed Wenger was shocked by the amount of times he has nearly been involved in potentially harmful accidents on the stretch of road between the Co-operative roundabout and Gremista.
“It’s incredible – one day I was pushed from the bike because someone moved out and didn’t look ahead,” he told last month’s meeting of Lerwick Community Council. “So, one idea I had was… use stopping places outside the Shetland Hotel [to allow people to overtake safely].”
During the same meeting, community councillor Karen Fraser said she believed there was a problem with Shetlanders’ mindset and attitude towards cars.
“The problem is Shetland is a car-owning society,” she said. “Most of the people complaining are the strong Viking men… that still get in the car everywhere they go. Folk can’t seem to think that they can walk half a mile into town – it’s healthy [to walk more].”
Bronze-winning triathlete at this year’s Island Games, Peter Fenwick, says the problem could equally come from the sheer overload of traffic on Shetland’s roads especially as there has been an increase of traffic heading north to the likes of the Total gas plant.
“I have had a few instances of bad driving like everyone since being out on the roads, but my main problem at the moment is both the increase in volume of traffic on the main road north to Sullom and the overtaking that goes on at peak times – with the buses, lorries, work 4x4s and commuters, you can take your life into your own hands.”
Mr Robinson says such behaviour by drivers is undoubtedly off-putting to anyone wishing to drive on Shetland’s roads, and believes drivers need to be more aware.
He points to a report in The Guardian newspaper, stating cycle deaths were up 10 per cent in 2012 with serious injuries up four per cent. Shetland has no designated cycling lanes along its main roads, and very little is currently done to improve the safety of cyclers.
“It’s a worthy campaign,” Mr Robinson says. “Drivers have gotten off lightly for killing or heavily injuring cyclists across Scotland and not enough is being done to protect cyclists. “It’s definitely an issue for the isles, and something the council could fix, according to the report.”