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Olympian urges use of helmets based on his near-fatal experience

James Cracknell is lending his weight to the Surrey Cycle Smart campaign and was at Box Hill on Friday to promote the cause which is jointly supported by Surrey Police and Surrey County Council.

The campaign is about encouraging safe cycling, including the use of safety equipment, and the double Olympic gold-medallist credits his protective headgear with saving his life after being hit by the wing mirror of a passing truck while cycling in Arizona last year. He has become a vocal advocate for helmet-use since that incident, going so far as to suggest that it is "selfish" of cyclists not to wear them.

"As a result of the accident, I had a massive head injury," said James. "When I came out of intensive care, I wasn't me anymore. My personality changed, I couldn't make decisions and I had no motivation.

"Luckily, I was wearing a helmet. If I hadn't been, I'd be dead. Cyclists are so vulnerable and I am really keen to encourage them to take extra care on the county's roads."

 

James, a native of Surrey, is a regular rider at the local beauty spot which will form part of the Olympic road race course. He has also witnessed another rider suffer a head injury after a crash in the area.

This Sunday a shakedown test event for the Olympic road race, the London-Surrey Cycle Classic will be held on the course to be used next year, and the National Trust which owns 1200 acres in the area has said that there has been a 30-40% increase in cyclists in and around Box Hill.

Cycle Smart, is a campaign to encourage motorists and cyclists to look out for one another and share the space on the roads. It forms part of the county council's and Surrey Police's Drive Smart campaign, which aims to improve road safety and tackle the problem of selfish and anti-social driving in Surrey.

Neighbourhood Inspector, Terri Poulton, from Surrey Police, said: "We want everyone to enjoy the build-up to this year's cycle event and the Olympic road races next year, but all road users in our area need to be aware of the dangers of sharing the space with others.

“Cyclists can keep themselves safe by never riding more than two abreast and riding in single file on narrow or busy roads. They should also manage their speed and wear appropriate safety equipment. Meanwhile, motorists can play their part by giving cyclists plenty of room and avoiding the use of the horn when waiting to overtake."

Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Kay Hammond, said: "We're trying to persuade all road users to abandon their selfish behaviour and give more thought to each other.

"I would urge motorists to allow cyclists enough time and space and I would ask people on bikes to make sure they obey the rules of the road and wear clothing that makes them visible to drivers and pedestrians. There's room for everyone to use roads safely as long as we all consider each other."