DEATHS of motorcyclists have gone in to the red with five dead in Cumbria already this year - more than the whole of 2013.
Motorcycling forums dubbed the trio of deaths on the county’s roads in a single day last month as ‘carnage’.
Ellis Butcher reports.
IT is revealing that on one of the warmest days of 2014 so far, three motorcyclists set off for a ride and never came home.
The first day of British summertime is regarded as the first official day of the motorcycling season.
Cumbria’s long curves make it a mecca. On a good day, bikers head up the Lakes in noisy packs on the A591.
Some prefer the sweeping corners of the A66 or opening the throttle on the straights of the A595 on Cumbria’s west coast.
Many head for the A686 leading to Alston, the highest market town in England.
And every Sunday sees a pilgrimage of leathers to Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale.
Lancashire and North Yorkshire are also big biker country.
The latter saw 16 motorcycle fatalities in 2013 and three so far this year.
The single day of tragedy in Cumbria on Sunday, March 30 claimed the lives of Lindal’s Michael Iveson, 66; David Prestwich, 49, of Wigton, and Ian Broughton, 52, of Horwich, Lancs.
These were separate accidents on the A595, A684 and A66 respectively. The car drivers involved were aged 72, 85 and 55.
On Friday, April 4, 23-year-old bike mad Scott Daniel Gibson, from Barrow, died after a collision with a police van on the A590 near Lindal.
With five dead so far in 2014, few would bet against Cumbria heading towards a gruesome new record.
Last year in Lancashire six motorcyclists died and 173 motorcyclists were seriously injured.
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Sgt Jo House, of Cumbria Police, rides the force’s Yamaha FJR 1300 and leads its BikeSafe initiative, an annual campaign targeted at motorcyclists. However, she is quick to point out that this is not to suggest that motorcyclists are always to blame.
Official statistics show that 33 per cent, or a third of single vehicle road traffic collisions, are caused by ‘something the motorcyclist did or didn’t do.’ And 66 per cent of accidents involve a second vehicle where a car driver is at fault, says Sgt House.
Despite the risks, 36-year-old Insp House has ridden half her life.
“It’s the freedom of the road,” she explains. “You are riding for yourself and you are closer to the elements.”
She suggests motorcyclists have to take responsibility for their actions and anticipate better what might happen, while car drivers also need to have some patience and take a ‘second look’ in the mirror.
Fifteen per cent of accidents involving motorcyclists occur at junctions with drivers pulling out on them; motorists unable to properly calculate the speed of the oncoming motorcyclist.
The spike in accidents often involves motorcyclists aged 35 to 54. Some are returning to the saddle after raising families and others may have new disposable income which has been ploughed into a new bike.
Lancashire Police are also attending bike meetings to show a video about Mike Mangan, 72, from Bolton. Mr Mangan was the father of a serving Lancashire traffic policeman who died last September in Somerset.
Mr Mangan was on the last ten miles of a 320-mile journey and his family believes that tiredness was a contributory factor as he overtook on a BMW 1200RT.
Bike safe workshops take place in Kendal, Carlisle or Workington Fire and Rescue community centres.
A full list of workshop dates can be found at www.bikesafe.co.uk. Ones in Cumbria include:
* Sunday May 4 in Workington
* Sunday June 15 in Kendal
* Sunday July 20 in Carlisle
* Sunday August 3 in Workington
* Sunday August 31 in Kendal
* Sunday October 5 in Carlisle