In 2019, the the last full year before lockdowns began, there were 595 motorcycle casualties, including 22 fatalities, on Welsh roads – prompting the return of the annual ‘Operation Darwen’ campaign as restrictions are wound down, writes Dave Moss.
Focussed on reducing the risk of motorcycle-related deaths and serious injuries across the country’s road network, it’s supported by all four Welsh police forces and the Welsh road casualty reduction partnership GoSafe. It will run until the Autumn, bringing high visibility patrols to roads and routes identified as high risk areas across Wales.
Officers from Roads Policing Units and Go Safe will be engaging with riders at popular meeting spots for enthusiasts, and checking machines for roadworthiness, paying particular attention to tyres, since worn or under-inflated tyres have been one of the most common themes during collisions.
Although not necessarily at fault, the casualty figures indicate motorcyclists are amongst the most vulnerable of road users, and at a higher risk of collision and serious injury.
Chief inspector Jon Aspinal, of the North Wales Roads Policing Unit, says: “Reducing casualties on our roads remains one of our top priorities. We look at all motorists as part of the Op Darwen campaign, however during the spring and summer months, increased focus is given to motorcycle safety, as larger numbers of motorcyclists take their bikes out to take advantage of the good weather and fantastic scenery we have here in north Wales.”
Teresa Ciano, GoSafe Partnership manager and chair of Road Safety Wales, sees operation Darwen as an opportunity to encourage more bikers to make safe choices when out riding.
She advises, “Ride within the legal speed limit, prepare for your journey, give yourself enough space and time, position yourself in the safest and best place to maximise your visibility of potential hazards… and consider further skills training to improve your performance and safety on the road.”
However Chief inspector Jon Aspinal also urges motorists on four wheels to be extra vigilant for motorcycles, reminding drivers to continually check for them when moving off, emerging from junctions, and during their journeys – while pointing out that riders also have an important role to play in ensuring their own safety.
“Travel at an appropriate speed for the road, weather and traffic conditions, wear high-visibility clothing. and always wear a helmet and other appropriate attire,” he says.
“We will continue to target, with a view to prosecution, all those that ride or drive dangerously, at excess speed, overtake on solid white lines or commit any other road traffic offences. Op Darwen is not about spoiling people’s fun, but encourages all road users to be safe and competent with the aim of reducing the number of collisions on our roads.”
Riders are being encouraged to visit http://walesbybike.comwebsite for information and guidance on training courses, road routes, and safety advice.