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End “us versus them” culture to improve safety of cyclists, urges Welsh Government minister

“We do have a problem with the behaviour of some drivers,” says Lee Waters after motorist who killed cyclist receives suspended sentence

A Welsh Government minister has said that an “us versus them” culture on the country’s roads needs to end to improve the safety of cyclists, and that “We do have a problem with the behaviour of some drivers.”

Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters, whose responsibilities include active travel, made his comments after a motorist who killed a cyclist was handed a suspended sentence.

Earlier this month, Lowri Powell was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after she was convicted of causing the death by careless driving of 61-year-old cyclist Paul James in April 2019.

Powell, who claimed that she had been blinded by the low sun, hit Mr Jones – a Plaid Cymru councillor for Ceredigion and former paratrooper – from behind, causing him to come off his bike and fall into the path of another car, reports Wales Online.

The driver of that vehicle also stood trial, but was acquitted of the same offence for which Powell was convicted.

Mr James’ son, Cameron, told the ITV Wales current affairs programme Y Byd ar Bedwar this week that tougher penalties are needed for drivers who kill cyclists.

“It’s not harsh enough,” he said. “I don’t understand how somebody can take somebody else’s life and just get a suspended sentence. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he continued. “I remember the moment my mother called me and I didn’t believe it. It’s something you never expect to hear.

“My dad was a funny, lovely person who wanted to help everybody and do a lot for the community. I think about him every day,” he added.

“I never got the chance to say goodbye to my Dad and that’s so difficult for me.”

Waters, the Labour Member of the Senedd for Llanelli, said: “Even though we’ve had a massive increase in the number of people cycling over the last year due to lockdown we haven’t seen as you might expect a similar proportionate rise in the number of casualties which is very encouraging,” he said.

“We do have a problem with the behaviour of some drivers and this is partly cultural. Because so few people in this country cycle, drivers don’t have the experience of what it feels like on a bike.

“We’ve created, in this country, a culture of us and them where the driver somehow feels emboldened in this dangerous box of steel to do what they like and that does require confronting their behaviour and prosecuting dangerous driving,” he added.

The minister is a former director of Sustrans Cymru, where he led the successful campaign for the Active Travel Act, which became law in 2013, which was hailed as a “world-first” and secured cross-party support, with Wales held up as an example the other countries in the UK could follow.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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