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Cycling and mobiles don’t mix: Peer calls for legal change after incident on way to Parliament

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A new call from Baroness McIntosh of Pickering has highlighted a loophole, where cyclists can still legally use mobiles while in the saddle – even though motorists cannot.

The former MP wants a law change so cyclists are prosecuted for the offence of using a phone – the same as car drivers. 

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Presently there is no specific offence for a cyclist using a phone, but a minister pointed out cyclists can be prosecuted for careless or dangerous cycling with fines of up to £2,500.

The peer says she has recent personal experience of being in danger from a cyclist using a mobile.  She claims a cyclist was on the wrong side of the road using their mobile phone with one hand, while she was attempting to cross over to the Houses of Parliament.

The Baroness’ plea follows Highway Code changes in January that introduced a ‘hierarchy of road users’ ranking the most vulnerable to harm, such as cyclists and pedestrians, and placing the greatest responsibility on car drivers for the safety of other road users – giving cyclists greater priority over vehicles at zebra crossings and junctions.

Lady McIntosh also asks why the code’s Rule 149 to ‘exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times’ bans mobile phone use yet does not apply to cyclists and e-scooter users. A further law banning handheld mobile use for car drivers came into effect on 25 March.

A leading cycling and motoring insurance comparison website, Quotezone.co.uk, hopes the new law on using mobile phones will come into effect equally across all road users.

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Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk comments: “It makes sense to review mobile phone use for all road users given the zero tolerance approach to motorists brought into effect at the end of March.  We should embrace any and all efforts to make our roads safer and using a phone while cycling can be particularly dangerous. 

“If the phone is there to act as a bike computer it should be attached safely with a hands-free product such as a quad lock or bike-specific phone case but even then, with the rise in the volume of potholes over the course of the pandemic, cyclists need their full attention to cope with the unexpected

“Cyclist and bicycle insurance can help protect the bike riders and other road users by safeguarding their finances from claims, covering medical expenses, personal liability, theft and damage to property but it can’t keep people out of harm’s way.  We need to respect the new changes to the highway code and look out for more vulnerable road users, this new law should help take that further.

“Bicycle insurance isn’t a legal requirement at present like car insurance is, but it should be something every cyclist has before hitting the saddle and it isn’t expensive, especially when using a comparison site to compare providers. For those with a bicycle under £1,000 it can even be added to their home insurance as a specified item.”

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Council awarded over £8m for new cycle and walking routes in Swansea

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Walking and cycling routes in Swansea are set to be expanded after Swansea Council secured millions in Welsh Government funding.

The Council has received confirmation from the WG of more than £8 million of transport funding which will be invested in the city’s growing walking and cycle network.

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Part of the funding will also be used to improve main routes in the city for public transport, in a bid to improve bus services and speed up journeys for passengers.

In total, £8.325 million has been awarded to the Council after it submitted bids earlier in 2022.

A report to Cabinet will seek to approve a list of transport schemes that will help boost sustainable transport and encourage more people to walk and cycle.

Just over £7 million of the funding will be spent on developing new walking and cycling routes.

Included in the plans is a new route across Clyne Common, linking up the village of Bishopston with a recently completed walking and cycling route on Mayals Road.

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New routes will also be developed in the north of the city, including a new route between Grovesend and Pontarddulais and a new link between Penllergaer and Gorseinon.

Funding will also be used to fill gaps in the walking and cycling network along the Tawe corridor in and around the Morriston area.

Andrew Stevens, Cabinet Member for Environment & Infrastructure, said: “Once again, Swansea has been successful in securing important funding that we want to invest in our transport network in the city.

“We have been working extremely hard for a number of years, creating new walking and cycling routes that give residents and visitors alternative ways to get around without needing to use a car.

“Our aim is to make walking and cycling a serious option for people, even more so with fuel prices continuing to rise across the country.

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“Swansea is a vast city with many communities and we are continuing to plan and develop routes that link up these communities. Residents have already taken part in city-wide consultations on new routes so that we can plan ahead and we will continue to work with residents, cycle groups and other representative bodies to ensure new routes help achieve our aims.”

Some of the funding (£1.2 million) will also be used to improve main routes in the city – specifically targeting routes used by public transport services.

Cllr Stevens added: “We need to ensure busy routes used by public transport services are improved and can assist in making bus services more reliable and more attractive for potential passengers.

“The latest funding will assist us in improving bus priority as well as upgrading bus stops.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Cycle event puts spotlight on Carmarthenshire once again

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Carmarthenshire is becoming the premier destination for major sporting events according to the county council, after hosting stage five of the Women’s Tour – Britain’s biggest women’s road cycling race.

Some of the world’s top riders raced through the picturesque Carmarthenshire countryside to the delight of crowds of spectators who had lined the route to cheer them – and Carmarthen cyclist Jess Roberts – on.

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Hundreds of schoolchildren and plenty of cycling enthusiasts and sporting fans gathered at Pembrey Country Park to watch the start of the race which included 97 riders from 17 teams battling it out along a tough 106.4-kilometre (66.3-mile) route finishing on the top of the Black Mountain – the second hill-top finish in Women’s Tour history.

Reigning Italian road race champion Elisa Longo Borghini won the queen stage outsprinting Kasia Niewiadoma and race leader Grace Brown in a thrilling finale at the end of the 7.2km climb.

Hundreds of people lined the route at Pembrey Country Park (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)
Hundreds of people lined the route at Pembrey Country Park (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)
Cyclists line up for the start of the race at Pembrey Country Park (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)

Carmarthenshire previously hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019 – again at Pembrey Country Park – and the Tour of Britain team trial in 2021.

With live televised coverage, these events are a major opportunity to showcase Carmarthenshire’s landscape and facilities, perfect for a range of sports with its special blend of countryside and coast.

They also provide an economic boost to the south Wales economy and add to the county’s growing tourism industry with the thousands of visitors likely to return to enjoy what Carmarthenshire has to offer.

Council Leader Cllr Darren Price said: “The Women’s Tour is a great way to showcase Carmarthenshire to the world.

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“It is now the fourth time we have hosted either the Tour of Britain or the Women’s Tour proving that Carmarthenshire is the top location for cycling in Wales.

“And we are reaping the rewards of that, everyone benefits, our growing tourism industry, local businesses and local communities.

“It has been a wonderful day and it was amazing to see so many supporters along the route; the people of Carmarthenshire have done themselves proud yet again.

“I am confident that this event will help to raise awareness of cycling and its benefits and inspire people to get on their bikes and make the most of our beautiful coast and countryside.”

Highlights of the race are available on demand via the ITV Hub.

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(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Swansea bike share cyclists hit 100,000 mark

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Leading bike share operator nextbike is celebrating after its Swansea users crossed the line to reach 100,000 rentals since the scheme launched in 2018.  

The Santander Cycles Swansea scheme reached the milestone just ahead of UK Bike Week (6-12 June), which encourages people to get out there and enjoy their local community by bike. 

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Nextbike UK MD, Krysia Solheim, said she was delighted to announce the news. 

“It’s clear that the people of Swansea have embraced a new-found love for cycling since the scheme was launched four years ago. 

“To have reached 100,000 rentals is fantastic news for the city, as people opting to cycle instead of using the car or public transport means that they’re not only helping to reduce CO2 emissions and ease congestion, but they’re also boosting their physical and mental health, too.”

Nearly 45,500 of those rides were taken in the last year (June 21 – May 22) alone, with a record day last week with 335 rides on Thursday, June 2.

The fleet of 70 pedal bikes has seen an average of more than 2 rides a day, with a high of 5 rides. 

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The scheme is run in conjunction with Santander and Swansea University and was first launched in 2018, after the University beat stiff competition to win the Santander Cycles University Challenge. 

Since then, the scheme has helped thousands of students, locals and tourists ride confidently around the city.

May 2022 saw the scheme hit its best ever month with 5,844 rentals up 78 per cent from last year. 

“It’s fitting that the milestone comes during UK Bike Week which this year is asking people to imagine how their local community could be improved if everyone in it used their bikes more,” Krysia explained. 

“These last few years have seen a lot of change, many people took up cycling for the first time or rediscovered it. Some for exercise, some for commuting to work, to go to the shops or even just to be able to see friends and family. We’re delighted to be able to give the people of Swansea the opportunity to cycle and pleased to see them utilising it.

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“We would love to expand the scheme, and it’s evident that the demand is there and would grow with additional stations and bikes.” 

Inclusive cycling charity Bikeability Wales also supports the scheme, ensuring bikes are regularly serviced, stocked and repaired from their workshop at the University’s Singleton Park Campus.

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