Sunday, August 3, 2008

Please Pass Wide and Slow......

I've seen this message regularly on the back of horse riders, usually on a flourescent jacket and I think the meaning is pretty self explanatory. The Highway Code says that when passing a horse (or cyclist) to give them as much room as you would a car. As a commuting cyclist and "vulnerable road user" I know that some drivers haven't paid any attention to this part of the Highway Code and a lot won't have looked at it since passing their driving test however many moons ago that was. I freely admit that I am hyper aware of it because I am said vulnerable user. I have had cars passing too close to me on a bike loads of times, it still gives me a fright and I have had wobbles at speed because of it. Passing a cyclist too close is one thing but surely common sense dictates that you should give a large animal like a horse plenty of room, its one thing spooking a cyclist its quite another spooking a large sentient animal with hooves....I always pass horses wide and slow, even on a pushbike and always warn the rider if I come up behind them and they haven't acknowledged I'm there.


On Saturday morning I saw the nasty (thankfully not as nasty as it could have been) consequences of not passing horses wide and slow.


Just heading away from Grange over Sands towards the A590 then the M6, the road was single lane each way but still reasonably wide. There was a stream of traffic heading towards the A590 and two horses and riders heading back towards Grange, single file with the rear rider wearing a flourescent jacket with the title message on it. A car appeared behind the riders and decided to pass rather than wait a little while (I'm sure he regrets this decision bitterly now). As there was a lot of traffic heading in the opposite direction from the horses there was no real space to overtake them safely but he did so anyway. I saw the whole thing and if he actually crossed the white lines it wasn't by much. He moved past the first horse which didn't do anything but he was so close it was scary. The horse in front took a real fright (as I would've done if a car had appeared that close behind me) and he spooked, badly. The horse reared up and it hit the front of the car, the car stopped but I think the horse stumbled and reared a bit again away from the car which eventually unseated the rider, she'd managed to hang on well until he lurched to the side. I think she bounced off the car before landing hard on the road and the horse started trotting off a little down the road then stopped.


I pulled over, as did Mel behind me and a few other cars. Mel used to work professionally with horses so went to catch the horse while I and the others went to the rider. She had landed hard on her knee and was complaining about it. Someone called an ambulance and Mel brought the horse back and we moved both horses off to the side of the road. The horse was bleeding from one of its fore legs but was surprisingly calm considering what had just happened and stood there quite happily while chaos ensued all around. It was not a skittish horse, it just didn't appreciate a car trying to pass with inches to spare. The only time the horse got a little restless was when someone tried to apply a dressing to its leg to help stem the flow of blood, which according to the non-injured rider looked worse than it really was. Rachel and Nicole were both struggling with looking at the bleeding horse as they are currently taking riding lessons. We sent them back to Mel's car until things were sorted to try and stop them getting too upset.

It turned out thehorses were from a stables only minutes down the road, the uninjured rider had phoned ahead and two people walked up the road then led the horses away quietly. They didn't seem too concerned about the bleeding leg and the girls seemed happier as they saw the horse walk by without problem. During this time the ambulance turned up and the injured rider was convinced to go with them to hospital. A couple of other witnesses were controlling the traffic and another witness turned out to be an off duty policeman who took everyone's details and a brief statement.

Once it was clear we could do no more we continued on our drive home.

The above happened on the 2nd of August and about a week later I saw two women riding horses on the roads around Rivington.....with no helmets on. I thought it was a legal requirement to wear a helmet when riding a horse. I know when I used to ride many moons ago the helmet rules were changed, the old style helmet I used to ride with wasn't good enough and jockey skull caps and silks started to become the norm.

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