ACCIDENTS to mountain bikers could exceed those for climbers and scramblers in 2014, according to a new mountain rescue report.
Annual figures from the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association (LDSAMRA) reveal last year was the third in a row in which a mountain biker has died on the fells.
The death of 59-year-old Silloth man John Graham in September - in a location very close to that of a fatality the year before – heightened concerns for mountain bikers in some areas.
Mr Graham was found by mountain rescuers 60 metres down a steep gully close to Lonscale Fell near Keswick. In total there were 13 incidents involving mountain bikes in 2013 – down from 18 in 2012 and 26 in 2011.
But the association’s statistics officer Ged Feeney said it was ‘not so much the number of incidents as the seriousness of them’ that was causing concern to rescue teams.
Of the 13 incidents last year, seven people required medical assistance and five were categorised as serious.
These included a rider at Jenkin Hill, Skiddaw, who suffered back and lower leg injuries after being unable to control his descent and tumbling 40 metres.
Another incident involved a woman who suffered fractured ribs and nausea at Hardknott Gill when she could not control her bike and landed in a stream.
The LDSAMRA report said mountain biking incidents were now on a similar scale to rock sports.
This trend in the Lakes is echoed across the country, with national figures for the year showing a marked increase over the same period five years ago.
LDSAMRA is trying to raise awareness of the issue through appeals to specialist media.
“We don’t want to put people off what is a very valuable sport,” said Mr Feeney. “But people need to be aware they are embarking on a serious undertaking – particularly in areas they are unfamiliar with.
“Most cyclists do wear protective gear, which is a good start, but it’s a matter of gaining experience in a controlled environment and not trying to do more than you are capable of.”
The increase in accidents coincides with a boom in the popularity of cycling, both in Cumbria and across the UK.
According to Cumbria Tourism, who have been working to see the region become known as the UK’s Adventure Capital, it is the fastest growing sporting activity in the county.
Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “We encourage as many people as possible to get involved and take advantage of this great sport but with any outdoor adventure activity we remind people to take care and keep safe whilst out on any cycle route.
“All of our promotion reminds people to make sure that bikes are well maintained and that appropriate clothing and cycle helmets are worn.”
The LDSAMRA report shows that the overall number of incidents in 2013 was 433 – a slight increase from the previous two years (432 in 2012 and 425 in 2011) but a huge drop from 600 in 2010 and 555 in 2009. It also showed a decrease in fatalities to 14 – the lowest in more than five years.