Rise in traffic is making it unsafe to ride, cyclists fear

Gary Robinson starting a 10-mile time trial in Tingwall on Tuesday. He says he has had several near misses while out riding. Photo: Kevin Jones
Gary Robinson says he has had several near misses while out riding. Photo: Kevin Jones

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.”

Iwan MacBride


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Smith

    • August 16th, 2013 12:39

    As someone who regularly walks on roads in Shetland, I have noticed in the past few years that about 15 per cent of motorists drive straight at you, apparently under the impression that it is up to pedestrians to jump in the ditch to make room for them. I think the driving test should be made more difficult for Shetlanders, since there seems to be a definite ‘want’ in a sizeable proportion of the driving population.

  • Joe Johnson

    • August 16th, 2013 14:32

    Cyclists may not have to pay road tax but they still have the right to cycle on the roads. All drivers need is patience, as they will be always be a chance to overtake. Please have consideration for cyclists on the road. How would you feel if you ended up being responsible for killing a cyclist because of reckless driving.

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 16th, 2013 15:17

    Only 15% Brian!

  • Willannay Price

    • August 16th, 2013 15:21

    I am a regular walker in Lerwick and have had several near misses with people and I mean fully grown adults not children, riding their cycles on the pavement and these people are going very fast. I think it high time something was done about that!

  • J Evans

    • August 16th, 2013 17:16

    There should be cycle lanes on at least the main route running from sumburgh to Lerwick to brae and north, not to forget the road out to the terminal as well. The thought of cycling on Shetlands roads scares the life out of me. The cycling and triathlon clubs regularly train on the roads and it’s terrifying the way some drivers treat them. It would appear that the only way a cycle lane will be considered is when it’s too late.

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 16th, 2013 19:11

    I would of thought more folk than that would of recognised you.

  • Colin Reynolds

    • August 16th, 2013 21:16

    As a cyclist and in response to Joe Johnson’s comment, I would like to point out that car drivers do not pay ‘road tax’ either… They pay a Vehicle Excise Duty which, as far as I am aware, is a tax on owning a car and is not (directly) used to fund road maintenance.

    Roads are for everyone to use, not just motorists, and those that think otherwise should really get themselves a reality check.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 17th, 2013 8:59

    Whether motorists and cyclists do or don’t pay tax of any kind is irrelevant to whether ALL road users should endeavour to treat each other with consideration. Apart from saving injury it leads to everyone – or at least, most people – being in a better mood.

    What like would the roads be if there were no motor transport?

    Why is there no “bicycle excise duty”?

  • John Tulloch

    • August 17th, 2013 9:33

    Shetland Wheelers Club hold “regular 10- mile and 25- mile time trials” – on main roads constructed so people can go about their normal business?

    Correct me if I am wrong, in time trials does’t that mean cyclists travel as fast as possible? Is that wise on any public road?

    I assume there are measures in place to protect club members cycling in this reckless fashion? What are they – police? Warning signs? Temporary speed limits?

    Why can’t Shetland Motorsports Club do the same?

  • John Jamieson

    • August 17th, 2013 10:23

    The Shetland Wheelers Club, which holds regular time trails for 10 and 25-mile circuits should be be aware that it is illegal for motorists to indulge in any kind of competition on public roads.
    They would need to take great care in their planning to make sure that the safety of all road users is not compromised during these events.

  • roberta clubb

    • August 17th, 2013 15:05

    This has been a worrying situation for a while and now that there is an apparent considerable increase in traffic .

    There are many drivers who are unwilling to sit in their lane behind the cyclist / or cyclists, until all oncoming traffic has passed and the road is clear to overtake according to the highway code .

    Vehicle drivers who do not indicate that they are “nipping out to overtake” is fairly regular occurence. (heart in the mouth stuff for the oncoming vehicle … and very threatening scary business for the cyclist /cyclists. We all have own tale to tell.! )

    It is becoming a worry , in general, to all road users roads, both new to the roads and those already accustomed to them .

    Maybe we could have more messages in the media and online to raise consciousness and plenty of “Chat” among us to remind us of Rules of the Road and try not to leave it to Good Manners of the Road. Let`s try together.

    Something positive has to be done by each of us road users that`s for sure.

  • christine polson

    • August 17th, 2013 16:02

    I would like to point out that horseriders are treated almost worse than cyclists. We are squeezed onto tiny verges or have drivers too close behind us, unlike cyclists who can take choices on getting out of the way of traffic our horses can spook or be unpredictable, they have their own minds. Also i would like to point out that good horseriders wear hi viz and make themselves seen not all cyclists do!

  • Laurence Paton

    • August 17th, 2013 19:50

    When it comes to walking on roads, I generally step to the verge, or take to the grass when I see a car coming. I have found this technique has led to a 100% success rate in avoiding collisions with all forms of motorized transport.
    Where roads are narrow with perhaps ditches right at the verge I have found that stopping and giving the oncoming vehicle a signal , usually a friendly wave, also has a 100% success rate in avoiding being run down with the passing vehicle.
    It can increase the journey time but I have found it’s worth the effort in ensuring I remain alive and reach my intended destination without suffering serious injury.

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 17th, 2013 20:23

    Surely a horse is the ultimate off road transport and that is the safest place for them.but if they do have to be on the road for whatever reason then a bit of consideration by the rider for other road users would go a long way to making the roads a better place for all. Maybe by taking a leaf out of the Austrians book an fitting all horses on the public highway with nappies to keep the large amounts of waste product from splattering cars and pedestrians alike. And God help you if you are on a bike of any sort when you suddenly come into contact with said waste. It might not look cool to have your horse kitted out like this but the roads are the highways and byways not a catwalk for posing and strutting on.

  • Colin Smith

    • August 19th, 2013 9:07

    Regarding John Tulloch’s concerns regarding cycle events; there are regulations for cycling events on the public road as there are for motor sports events. The law that applies to cycle event is the “Cycle Racing on Highways (Scotland) Regulations 1960” and it contains specific provision for Time Trials. Shetland Wheelers events fully comply with these regulations.

    I am not sure on the details for motor sports events, but I would have guessed that they would be allowed if they complied in the same way: Vehicles started with 1 minute gaps, remaining below the speed limit, following the highway code, event and participant insurance, police notification, risk assessment etc. I would have thought that the various classic car/motorbike/tractor parades and club runs would be the closest similar events?

  • Robert Sim

    • August 19th, 2013 10:50

    A common point which arises out of the story and the posts is the problem nowadays with overtaking – and by that I mean where drivers overtake aggressively, suddenly, often on corners/unsafe stretches and without prior indication. That includes impatiently overtaking cyclists (and horse-riders) where there is insufficient room and time. I see that frequently here but also south on rural roads.

  • Brian Smith

    • August 19th, 2013 23:35

    I note that two pedestrian crossings in Lerwick have become non-operational, one of them for quite a few weeks. This is dangerous in a community with bad driving habits.

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 20th, 2013 9:57

    The whole community is guilty of bad driving Brian, or does it just seem that way to someone who is jay walking the whole time.

  • Brian Smith

    • August 20th, 2013 12:38

    If the crossings are non-operational, Ali, everyone has to jay walk. That’s what I am complaining about.

  • Karl Simpson

    • August 20th, 2013 12:40

    From a runners perspective, I would say that the problem of bad driving is one which is getting steadily worse. I recall three separate incidents on the Burra-Trondra road in the space of a week earlier in the year which left a distinct impression on me. One involved me having to physically jump to the ditch while running on the side pavement to avoid a car which somehow decided to leave its lane altogether and cross over the white line. The second involved a car which hit and maimed an otter and left it on the road just ahead of me. The third saw me being passed, in a 40 zone, by a motorbike doing at least 90mph. After the bike passed me, I had to stop and catch my breath… he was centimetres from my elbow. If I had sold him a dummy, I could have sent him airborne straight over the Burra bridge! For some reason, I have witnessed a lot more incidents of bad driving this year compared to others but to be honest, it has been a constant concern.

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 20th, 2013 14:52

    look left, look right and look left again, if it is all clear then it safe to cross. its what I was taught as a bairn Brian, also don’t walk up the middle of the road like you have priority over all other road users. two very simple rules that if you use keeping safe should not be too difficult.


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