British Cycling has been stunned by separate road accidents involving Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and the head coach of the UK’s elite riders, prompting renewed calls for measures to protect cyclists.
Wiggins, who followed up his Tour de France triumph with a gold medal at the Olympics, was involved in a collision with a white van as he cycled near his home in Lancashire on Wednesday.
Within hours, it emerged that Shane Sutton, who helped mastermind British Cycling’s Olympic success, had suffered bruising and bleeding on the brain after being involved in an incident on the A6 in Manchester.
British Cycling said the head coach was wearing a helmet and was set to undergo more tests.
Wiggins, whose success this summer produced a “Wiggo effect”, boosting cycling in Britain, spent the night in hospital with minor rib injuries, a dislocated finger, cuts and bruises. He was hit close to a petrol station near Wigan.
Brian Cookson, president of British Cycling, said Mr Sutton was cycling into work at the Manchester velodrome, while the Tour de France champion was on a mountain bike heading off for a social ride with friends.
“We are not talking about inexperienced cyclists, or riding without lights. We are talking about two guys doing regular cycling for fitness or health,” Mr Cookson said.
In a statement, British Cycling said it was extremely rare for its riders and coaches to be hurt while cycling on roads, let alone in such a short space of time.
However, it added: “Cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity but there is much more to be done to improve conditions for cyclists on the roads.
“British Cycling is calling on the government to put cycling at the heart of transport policy to ensure that cycle safety is built into the design of all new roads, junctions and transport projects, rather than being an afterthought.”
British Cycling’s success and profile has helped encourage more people to commute on their bikes, especially in the City. Cycling trips are up 81 per cent since 2000, according to Transport for London.
But fears about cycle safety remain, with more than 19,000 cyclists involved in road accidents each year, of which more than 3,000 are killed or seriously injured, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
“The lead has to be taken by government,” said Mr Cookson. “We would like to see a much higher percentage of road funding making it easier for cyclists. Any new scheme should look at a way of making that facility safer for cycling on. We are a long way behind Denmark and Holland but we have to make a start.”
Wiggins, the first Briton to win the Tour de France in its 109-year history, called for a law to make cyclists wear helmets after a rider was killed by an Olympic bus during the games.
Speaking after he won his gold medal, he stressed the importance of cycling safety, saying people should wear helmets, use lights and not listen to music while riding.