The family of a “super-fit” pensioner tragically killed in a collision with a lorry have joined with campaigners to demand improved cycle safety in Scotland.
A giant tombstone representing the eight cyclists who lost their lives on the nation’s roads this year was unveiled outside the Scottish Parliament this morning.
In attendance were the family of Douglas Brown, 79, from Leith, who died of multiple injuries after being hit by a truck as he cycled on the B9080 Linlithgow to Kirkliston road, near Winchburgh Bing, on Thursday, July 11.
Douglas, who was a founding member of the Edinburgh Triathletes club, died three days later on Sunday, July 14.
His wife of 55 years, Wilma, has paid testament to “a loving husband” and “doting grandfather”.
She said: “When the police rang me last Thursday, my heart sank. He loved cycling – it was his great passion. It gives us great comfort to know that he died doing something he loved. He would cycle maybe four times a week and cover between 20 and 40 miles each time.
“Obviously it is all very upsetting but as a family we’d like to use his passing to raise awareness for the need for increased cycle safety.”
Retired plumber and grandfather-of-four, Douglas was an avid cyclist and keep-fit fan, racking up over 24 marathons before switching to triathlons and Iron Man competitions.
He passed his love of cycling on to his two sons, Chris, 52, from Portobello, and Scott, 49, who now lives in Barrie, just north of Toronto.
Following his accident, Douglas was given the best possible chance of survival thanks to the actions of nurse Julie Owen, 43, who arrived on the scene just seconds after the collision as she was on her way to a successful job interview with the NHS – an act Scott is only too willing to pay tribute too.
He said: “If it wasn’t for Julie’s actions I wouldn’t have had three days to spend with my dad before he passed. The doctors at the hospital even confirmed this so I’ll always be grateful to her for what she did.
“I’ve spoken to her on the phone to thank her and she played it down.”
Brother Chris added: “She’s the type of person that should be receiving an MBE.”
Another legacy the family would dearly love to see come to bear following Douglas’ death is increased government funding for cycle safety and awareness.
The family have been moved to speak out following the death of 14-year old Connor Sheilds in Aberdeen last Wednesday.
Chris, who now runs the family business, Douglas Brown and Son plumbers, and is an keen cyclist himself, said: “My father had lived a full and long life but this wee boy was only 14 years old, he had lived no life at all.
“The government are giving people money through cycle to work schemes and telling people to get fitter to reduce the strain on health services but they do very little to improve safety for cyclists.
“I cycle in the evenings and on the weekends and you always have to be aware of what’s going on around you.
“I firmly believe that before you pass your driving test you should be riding a bike so motorists can get a view of what it’s like to cycle the roads.
“It’s not a case of motorists versus cyclists either as most people who cycle also drive and vice versa. I’d just like the government to take it seriously for once and properly invest in cycling.”
He added: “During this recession more and more people are choosing to cycle to work instead of taking their cars but then it all falls down on the government side.”
This view is echoed by Scott, who is quick to point out that the family have no wish to court further publicity, their only wish being that the cycle safety debate is put back on the national agenda.
He said: “My father loved cycling all his life and I can think of no greater honour to him than to have at least raised the debate for others cyclists following his death.
“People could never believe that he was cycling the distances he was at 79. When he would come to visit me in Canada, he would tell people he was cycling to Bradford and they would think Bradford Street but he would be talking about a town called Bradford which is over 25 miles away.
“That was dad, he had a wonderful sense of humour and was a real character, he made friends all over the world though his cycling.”
Tombstone and ‘ghost bikes’ target MSPs
CYCLING campaigners have saddled up once more to call on government ministers to better fund cycle safety after so many deaths.
A giant tombstone representing the eight cyclists who lost their lives in Scotland so far this year was unveiled outside the Scottish Parliament this morning.
And two ‘Ghost Bikes’ – one for an adult and one for a child – were also left there, painted white and with information on the deaths of cyclists. Photographs of the bikes and tombstone will be made into postcards and sent to every MSP in Scotland.
Flowers were also left at Holyrood, while family members of Douglas Brown, who died recently after an accident in West Lothian, were also present.
Many organisers behind the demonstration are also involved in the annual Pedal on Parliament campaign which sees hundreds of cyclist descend on Holyrood to demand cycle safety.
Organiser Andy Arthurs, 30, from the Meadows, said: “We want MSPs to know that this is outside your Parliament, here are the figures, now what are you going to do with it?
“Scotland has half the population of London yet there have been three more deaths on our roads already this year.
“We’ve been calling for increased cycle safety for several years now but nothing gets done, there is a distinct lack of national leadership on this issue.
“This latest incident involving a 14-year-old boy in Aberdeen took place on an A-road, there was no alternative for him but to use that road. The vast majority of cyclist deaths have occurred on main roads so if they’re not safe then where are you to go?”
Campaigners are now calling for a three-fold strategy to be adopted to tackle the issue, asking for people to be encouraged to ditch their car and take up cycling, better infrastructure for bikes, cycling to be fully integrated into local transport strategies, and stricter sentencing in the courts.
The list of cyclists to meet their fate on the nations roads this year includes Alastair Dudgeon, 51, Kincardine (A985), January 6; Alistair MacBean, 74, Inverness (A82) January 22; Charles Aimer, 42, Errol (A90) March 17; Craig Tetshill, 21, Gorthleck (unclassified road) May 16; Kyle Allen, 8, Great Northern Road, Aberdeen, May 21; David Wallace, 52, West Mains Avenue, Perth, June 12; Douglas Brown, 79, West Lothian (B9080), July 11 and Connor Shields, 14, Ellon (A975), July 17.
McCourt case to be appealed
A bid to toughen the sentence dished out to death-crash driver Gary McCourt will be heard at the Appeal Court on August 13.
A sheriff’s decision to let McCourt walk free from court with a driving ban of just five years after he was convicted of killing cyclist Audrey Fyfe, 75, sparked outrage in the Capital.
Another cyclist, George Dalgity, died after being knocked down by McCourt in 1985. Following the public reaction the Crown office moved to appeal the sentence, which they described as “unduly lenient”.
Cycle safety campaigner Andy Arthurs said: “The police need to be empowered to press charges against those whom endanger cyclists and the courts can’t be handing down suspended sentences or community service for those who have killed a cyclist.”