A new road safety campaign is being rolled out in the Vale of Belvoir aimed at raising awareness of the hidden dangers on rural roads and the risks to vulnerable road users.
The ‘Think Ahead’ campaign, which launched yesterday (Tuesday, June 14) in Harby, is being piloted across the Vale in response to concerns of local residents about safety on the road, particularly that of horse riders and cyclists.
To support the campaign, distinctive signs showing images of horses and cyclists will be put up over the coming weeks at locations that have been identified as posing the most risk. These locations will include village entrances and exits and entrances to farms and stables.
The signs have been designed to remind all road users to ‘Think Ahead’ and to expect the unexpected, particularly when driving on rural roads where the view of the road ahead can be reduced by hedges or blind bends.
Sergeant Paul Kear, from Melton Police Station, said: “These new signs will give drivers that glimmer of awareness that there may be something around the corner and that might just be enough to avoid an accident.
“Over the three year period from January 2013 to December 2015, we have had over 160 casualties across this part of Leicestershire.
“Tragically this includes four people who lost their lives and 25 people who have sustained serious injuries.”
He added: “As part of the campaign we would also like to encourage road users to be more tolerant of each other. At this time of year, our rural roads see an increase in cyclists and horse riders, including a lot of sporting events. Although these can be frustrating to other road users we would urge people to take their time and be patient to ensure the safety of themselves and of other road users.
“I’m a cyclist myself. There’s a lot of slow moving traffic and vulnerable people on these roads now but one of the main messages from this new campaign is that, in essence, there’s room for all of us.”
Norman Portess, a former club captain of the Melton Olympic Cycling Club, is now in his 40th year of cycling. Every Sunday the club has groups of cyclists who go out on rides, covering between 45 and 60 miles in a day.
Mr Portess said: “Since the last Olympics there are definitely more cyclists on the roads so any new scheme that raises awareness and consideration of all road users has to be beneficial.
“Last July I got hit by a white van opposite the Leicester Road Industrial Estate in Melton. Its wing miror clattered my elbow. I didn’t go to hospital but I was badly bruised. My elbow and legs were literally black and blue. I was off my bike for a month and that accident really set me back.
“It’s the odd one or two drivers who just can’t wait and overtake you on a blind bend and there are lots of those in this area. I see it all the time as I do a lot of miles on my bike.
“Drivers are taking a risk. They’re on the opposite side of the road when they overtake and it’s usually the innocent party who gets the impact.”
Nationally, 60 per cent of those killed in road accidents die on rural roads, with government research showing that many more drivers are needlessly putting themselves at risk of an accident.
A shocking quarter of drivers report having had a near miss on a country road, while 40 per cent have been surprised by an unexpected hazard. A third also confess to taking a bend too fast.
Representatives from the Melton Olympic Cycle Club, British Cycling, the Melton Sport and Health Alliance (part of Melton Council) and local horse riders all attended the launch of the new Think Ahead campaign to show their support.
The aim is for the campaign to be rolled out throughout the county following the Vale of Belvoir pilot.