herald

Saturday 20 December 2014

Olympian's death highlight dangers to cyclists

Riders worldwide have expressed consternation and regret as yet another top cyclist -- in this case Olympic mountain biker Burry Stander of South Africa -- has been killed in a traffic accident while training.

Stander was 25. He was South Africa's most successful mountain biker, having won the world under-23 title in 2009 and placed fifth at the London Olympics last summer.

Details of what happened in Stander's fatal accident are still sketchy, but his crash follows a grimly familiar pattern of recent months: Britons Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton have all been hit by cars or vans.

"It's a very sad start to the New Year and a massive loss to African cycling," said Chris Froome on his Twitter account.

Britain's Tour de France runner-up, born in Kenya and a former mountain biker himself, was in South Africa when the accident happened and he organised a memorial ride for Stander in Johannesburg last night.

In Spain, which has the highest number of cycling fatalities in road accidents in Europe, two Spanish professional racers, mountain biker Inaki Lejaretta and road racer Victor Cabedo, have been killed in vehicle collisions since September.

Another rider, Galician cycling president Cristobal Hermida, was killed on Thursday when a lorry struck his bike. That this spate of accidents should happen when road fatalities in Spain in 2012 dropped to their lowest level since 1960 only highlights the dangers.

"Bike riders are considered to be second-class road users, and drivers are increasingly aggressive towards us," said professional cyclist Pedro Horrillo.

"That means more and more accidents."

Horrillo believes that the only way forward is to "really increase the fines for motorists who collide with cyclists".

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