Cyclist calls for safer cycle routes in Ipswich after accident which left her with severe damage to her spine

Jaki Vallance is recovering at home after being knocked off her bike in Ipswich.

Jaki Vallance is recovering at home after being knocked off her bike in Ipswich.

An Ipswich cyclist who was left with a broken back after being involved in an accident with a car is calling for improvements to be made to the town’s cycling network after the incident left her with a ‘lack of confidence in cycling again’.

Jaki Vallance has said more needs to be done to make cycling in Ipswich safer, after the accident earlier this month left her with a broken back in two places and unable to complete simple daily tasks.

The long-term effect of her injuries are not yet known.

Ms Vallance had been cycling home from her workplace in Ipswich town centre at the time of the collision, which happened on August 1, at the junction between Elm Street and Museum Street.

Ambulance crews attended and Ms Vallance was taken to Ipswich Hospital, where further investigations showed the extent of her injuries.

“I have suffered two breaks in my back,” she said. “One high up which is a straight break, but the main cause for concern is a bone near the base of the spine which has broken into three.

“I also have damaged my ribs which is excruciating, plus numerous grazes and bruises on my lower body.

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“I’m recovering slowly and painfully. I have to wear a back brace until the end of September, followed by physiotherapy. I’m unsure what long term damage or impact there will be. In the short term I have a lack of confidence in cycling again. There’s a lack of freedom to enjoy the summer as I’m more or less housebound. I am a very active person.”

Ms Vallance is now calling for improvements in Ipswich town centre to help make cycling safer and to encourage more people to get on their bikes, including better signage where cycle lanes cross road junctions, and painting cycle lanes in brighter colours.

She added more work also needed to be done to target vehicles parking in cycle lanes.

“Sometimes I cycle on the pavements if I feel unsafe with the amount of traffic, especially during the morning rush hour,” she said. “Buses are very challenging as they just pull out and expect you to stop.

“Pedestrians tend to forget about cycle lanes and step into the road in front of you looking the other way.”

Figures released by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) recently showed it had attended 190 accidents involving a vehicle and a bicycle or motorcycle between 2012 and 2015. A total of 97 cyclists or motorcyclists were taken to hospital as a result.

Hopes for increased funding

Ipswich Borough Council has said plans could soon be afoot to make ‘major improvements’ to the town’s cycle network if funding is approved by Suffolk County Council.

The work could include better links into the town centre, improved signage for cycle lanes and better separation between cyclists and vehicles on busy roads.

The borough council announced last month it would like to improve cycle links between the rail station, Waterfront, the town centre and around Cardinal Park, while calls for foot and cycle bridges as part of the new cut wet dock crossing have also been issued.

Carole Jones, portfolio holder for development at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “As with many town centres, Ipswich has at its centre a historic pattern of narrow streets which often makes it difficult to accommodate pedestrians, bikes, buses and cars.

“There are some cycle lanes, including two contraflow lanes, and some dual-use pedestrian/cycle lanes, but links into the town centre are variable.

“We have a reasonably good link from the east side of Ipswich, but anyone cycling in along the Wherstead Road is with the road traffic all the way.”

The money to fund improvements would come from developers via the borough council’s cycling strategy, which forms part of its Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) – a planning guide for developers submitting planning applications for new housing.

In accordance with national policy developers must make a set amount of funds available to make improvements to the surrounding area – and the borough council hopes some of this could be used to improve the town’s cycle network.

Could Ipswich learn from Edinburgh’s example?

A better cycle network is something which the Cycle Ipswich group has been calling for for many years.

The group exists solely to campaign for improvements to the cycle network across Ipswich, and last year was influential in seeing changes made to plans for the Major’s Corner and Mulberry Corner junctions.

Shaun McDonald, a member of Cycle Ipswich, said: “The funds for any changes to current infrastructure or new infrastructure is very unreliable, not knowing when the next round of funding will be available, nor if you’ll get it.

“The City of Edinburgh council around five years ago allocated 5% of the transport budget to active travel, increasing it by 1% per year for five years until it gets reviewed.

“This has meant that there are funds available to make a huge difference as the council could plan ahead for new infrastructure to be implemented.

“I’d really like to see the same happen here in Ipswich, if we are to make cycling and walking desirable.”

He said investment in better cycling infrastructure would create a saving for the NHS, with active travel meaning less obesity and other inactivity related health issues, while encouraging people to shop local to boost the local economy.

He added that the junction at Museum Street and Elm Street was known to be a cause for concern among cyclists, while improvements could be made to the cycle lane in Civic Drive, and a protected cycle lane in Valley Road and Colchester Road would encourage more people to bike into town.

“Civic Drive is pretty scary sometimes,” he said. “There’s a cycle lane, but it’s not wide enough to fit a bike in, let alone be wide enough to have a bit of buffer space from passing vehicles.

“Without some alterations you are not going to get more people cycling.

“It’s one of those chicken and egg problems – to get more people cycling you need better infrastructure, but to be able to get that extra infrastructure it’s going to require more people cycling.”

Have your say?

What do you think of the cycling experience in Ipswich town centre and the surrounding area?

We want to hear your views. Are you a regular cyclist into the town, or do you cycle occasionally for leisure?

Where do you think improvements to the local cycling network could be made?

What provision do you think is in place that works well already for those cycling into town?

We would also like to hear from motorists and other road users on this issue. How could cycling infrastructure in the town be improved to make the experience better for motorists?

Are there any areas which should be focused on as a priority?

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