8 December 2009

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North Down Cycling Club launched its drive for membership this week with two nights being allocated to allow existing and new members an opportunity to enrol for 2010. Following the large turnout on Tuesday evening, club chairman Ian Blayney is anticipating another wave of new signings tonight, Thursday 10th. The clubrooms in Park Drive will be open between 7.30 and 9pm but anyone unable to get along can download the necessary application forms from the club website at www.northdowncc.com. New members are reminded that Cycling Ireland have a special introductory rate of only £9 for a year’s membership. This will provide the rider with third party and limited personal injury insurance cover. Anyone wanting to take advantage of this offer needs to bring a photocopy of a driving licence or other evidence of date of birth.

As this year draws to a close the club can look back and take great satisfaction from its successes on a number of fronts, details of which will appear in this column later this month. The big increase in membership and swelling numbers going on club weekend runs has caused North Down’s committee to remind riders of the importance of safe riding practices. While cyclists can do nothing to reduce the increasing volume of motor traffic on our roads, it is possible to minimise risk by adopting simple, sensible habits.

At this time of the year the amount of daylight is restricted and we can expect frequent cloudy, dull and wet weather. It follows, therefore that riders make themselves as visible as possible to other road users, especially motorists approaching from behind. For only a few pounds it is possible to acquire a tail light and some reflective clothing or stickers. With most riders using winter training bikes and wearing several layers of clothing, the priority is getting home safely rather than saving weight or looking stylish.


A cyclist’s riding position is such that it is easy to find oneself concentrating on the road surface immediately ahead, particularly so when road surfaces are often poor or when riding in the middle of a bunch. This can lead to a lack of awareness of what is happening ahead, behind or to the side. Riders should be constantly scanning for possible hazards and take appropriate action to avoid accidents.


Many serious accidents are caused by cyclists being hit from behind. Although handlebar and helmet mirrors are available they are rarely used so riders depend almost entirely on their hearing to alert them to traffic approaching from the rear. It is, therefore, a cause for concern that some cyclists frequently ride while plugged into their iPod or MP3 player. Riders also should be aware that the ban on the use of mobile phones while driving also extends to cycling.


The compulsory wearing of a hard shell helmet, at the moment, only applies to riders taking part in competition but it has become common practice for the vast majority of riders. North Down Cycling Club has recently restated its policy on this issue, which is that any rider under the age of 18 will not be able to participate in any cycling activity organised by the club unless they wear a helmet. Adults failing to wear a helmet, while not committing an offence, are in breach of the club’s policy on safe riding. The club, as a member of Cycling Ireland, is committed to exercising a duty of care and to this end it supports the adoption of safe practices that will minimise the risk of serious injury. A helmet, or any form of protection for that matter, may not save a life in a head-on collision with a motor vehicle at more than 30mph but such incidents are rare. On the other hand, several North Down members can relate, from their own recent experience, more frequent occasions where a fall or crash due to uneven, muddy or icy roads, a touch of wheels on a group ride or a mass pile up in a race, has ended with a helmet smashed into several pieces but the rider spared serious head injuries.

In a situation where a cyclist is the innocent victim in a collision with a motor vehicle, the legal outcome may be less straightforward than one would anticipate.

Should a rider without a helmet be struck by a vehicle and receive serious injury or suffer brain damage, there is evidence that the person being pursued for compensation will try to reduce liability by claiming that the cyclist, by failing to wear a helmet, is guilty of contributory negligence.


On to less serious matters.
The run in to the new year is the last chance for some cyclists to indulge in some celebratory, seasonal events before beginning the hard grind of serious training for the new season. For the next two Saturdays, 12th and 19th December, North Down’s normal 9am run offers an alternative to the usual trek round the peninsula. The annual Hot Port runs will head for Comber and then to Strangford for a ferry crossing that will then take the riders to the Saltwater Brig for a bite to eat and an alcohol-free hot port before returning to Bangor.

On Monday 14th December the veterans’ Christmas lunch will be held in the Esplanade, Ballyholme, at 2.30pm. At the moment there are around 30 participants but anyone else free and interested in coming along should contact Harry Adams as soon as possible. The fare on offer is traditional stuff and, to the select group of Cultural Society oldies who doddered around the continental market last week, it might appear rather dull in comparison to the kangaroo, venison and wild boar burgers sampled in Belfast. The generous drafts of mulled wine and beer that were also imbibed seemed to have the effect of stimulating rather that satiating the appetite for, no sooner had they trundled off the platform at Bangor station, they decided to round off the day with a turkey and ham dinner in one of High Street’s well known eateries. Who says culture is dead?

Anyone hoping to tighten his or her belt after Christmas may delay it for a few days, at least until after Monday 28th December. On that day North Down Cycling Club will hold its annual Mince Pie run. Headquarters will be the Marquis Hall, beside the Abbey Street car park, on the edge of Castle Park. There will be two or three runs of different lengths and speeds, including a short ride round the park for younger riders. All runs will move off around 10am and mince pies, tea and coffee will be available from 11.30am. New cyclists and parents accompanying children with bikes are welcome to join in.

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