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Death toll rises in North Yorkshire 'bikers' paradise'

By Alex Moss
BBC News, Yorkshire

image captionPolice said motorcyclists had been captured travelling at speeds up to 140mph
Long, stretching, weaving roads criss-crossing through North Yorkshire's stunning countryside provide a backdrop regarded by many as a bikers' paradise.
But the number of fatal crashes so far this year suggest this beauty is not without danger.
The death toll from January to September has reached 11 - a marked increase on the two recorded during the whole of 2012.
So why has the county seen such a significant rise and are the roads anymore perilous than other places?

'Lucky to survive'

The force's deputy chief constable Tim Madgwick said in many cases speeding bikers were creating their own fate.
"A lot of victims of fatal crashes are doing in excess of 100mph. We're seeing some clocking up speeds of up to 140mph.
"If a motorcyclist makes an error at that speed they will be very lucky to survive it."
Other factors undoubtedly play a part.
The high summer temperatures have brought more opportunities for bikers to go out on the dry roads.
Last year the summer was much wetter, a climate less appealing for bikers, perhaps reflected by the lower death toll.
The long-standing popularity of North Yorkshire to biking enthusiasts inevitably means there are more motorcycles using the roads.
Riders travel from the many nearby urban areas to experience the freedom of the hills and vales, away from the more restrictive built-up areas.
The roads themselves can be unforgiving, dotted with hazards such as drystone walls, blind corners, tractors and other slow-moving traffic.
Mr Madgwick said: "North Yorkshire is worse than a lot of other areas for all those reasons.
"We're fortunate and unfortunate in the same breath because it's a place that attracts so many visitors but can see more tragedy.

Biker races

"Seven out of 10 motorcycle deaths are down to driver error, and a proportion of that is down to speed."
He said intelligence had been gathered suggesting bikers were staging races between car parks in market towns such as Helmsley and Stokesley and using parking tickets bought at each end as proof of their speed.
He added: "There is a slightly obsessed view that this is my life, but people riding at excessive speed need to be aware of the wider impact.
"The effect on the family left behind, the impact on the member of the public who may have seen the crash, it is far reaching and life-changing."
Campaigns to promote motorcycle safety are plentiful and the force has done much work around raising awareness raising.
A tougher enforcement line is adopted towards speeders, racers and wheelie show-offs in an attempt to cut down deaths.
"If irresponsible riders want to race around on public roads then our officers will use every bit of technology we can and gather evidence and work with our colleagues to get a prosecution."

'Bad guys'

But are police in danger of isolating the more law-abiding riders as they try to root out reckless ones?
Biker Jolyon Lawson, from Motorcycle Action Group, a national organisation which campaigns for bikers' rights, said: "We are forever painted as the bad guys.
"Bikers are victimised because they are an easy target and a police campaign about motorcyclists will get public support.
"A lot of other roads users don't understand motorcycling, all they see is someone on a bike and presume he or she will be driving how they want at their own will."
Mr Lawson, 47, from Driffield, East Yorkshire, said: "We, as sensible motorcyclists, understand there is a small percentage of riders who are irresponsible but I would suggest a lot of the fatalities are down to other road users."
He said while the biking community had a good working relationship with the police more work should be done to educate other drivers about the vulnerability of motorcyclists.
"I have been to too many funerals where a car has pulled out and a motorcyclist has been killed."

More on this story

  • Three killed in North Yorkshire road crashes