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28 May 2012
Nottingham Bioengineer backs Brake in call for safer cycling

After being left unconscious at the roadside with a broken neck and back Dr Donal McNally, a bioengineer who specialises in spinal injuries, is backing a call by Brake — the road safety charity — to make our streets fit for cyclists.

Dr McNally, from The University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering, suffered three neck fractures, a lower back fracture and three cracked ribs when he was knocked from his bike on the A60 near Bradmore in Nottinghamshire on his way home from work at 10.30pm on May 21 2010.

Based in the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering Dr McNally is an expert in the field of spinal mechanics. He has spent more than two decades researching the impact of crashes on the spine. So he knows better than most how lucky he is to be alive and just how close he came to never walking again.

Dr McNally is now backing a call by Brake for widespread 20mph limits to make our roads fit for cyclists.  This follows a survey by Brake, funded by personal injury law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp (BBK), of 1,550 commuters which shows that a third would switch to cycling for their daily commute if our roads were safer.

Brake was set up by former transport journalist and Nottingham alumna Mary Williams (English 1989) following the death of her mother who was killed when her stationary car was hit by a 38 ton tanker with faulty brakes.

Nearly two in three commuters who took part in the Brake survey supported widespread 20 mph limits around housing, schools and shops to ensure drivers have a better chance of stopping in the event of an emergency.

In 2010 110 cyclists were killed on roads in Great Britain — an increase of seven per cent from 2009 — while cycle traffic increased by only one per cent. The number of seriously injured cyclists rose from 2,606 in 2009 to 2,660 in 2010. The majority of cycle incidents occur between Monday and Thursday during the main commuting hours.

Dr McNally believes his helmet, which cracked in four places, absorbed enough of the impact to save his life. He now uses his own story in university lectures and school visits and his account of the injuries he suffered has been recorded by Brady Haran, the University’s film maker in residence. The film features on Brady’s award winning science website Test Tube —

Dr McNally said: “Cycling is fantastic and a great way to get exercise, but it is important to understand how vulnerable you are as a cyclist. Wearing a helmet and high-vis clothing are easy things that anyone can do to make themselves safer. It’s a hard message to get across to the children at local schools, but the reality of my research and first hand experience make a pretty compelling story.”

Brake and BBK are launching the ‘Cycle for life’ campaign calling for 20mph limits to protect cyclists and more traffic-free and segregated cycle paths on commuter routes, and calling on drivers to look out, slow down and give a wide berth for cyclists.

The government is currently reviewing circular 1/06 on setting local speed limits, and Brake is urging them to include provisions to enable widespread 20mph limits to help protect cyclists.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “It is right that the government is working to encourage more cycling to improve health and reduce emissions, but it must also ensure that roads are safe for cyclists of all ages.

Widespread 20mph limits where people live and work would encourage more people to take to their bikes, get healthy and get happy, without the threat of harm from fast traffic. More cyclists are needlessly dying on our roads or suffering serious injuries such as paralysis, brain damage and loss of limbs: the government must commit to enabling widespread 20mph limits and segregated routes, to stem this tide of cyclist casualties.”

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