National Road Safety Week: Celebrating the people keeping us safe on the county's highways

The theme of National Road Safety Week 2021, which takes place from November 15 until 21, is celebrating the county’s road safety heroes.

The professionals who keep us all safe, from school crossing patrols to highway officers or contractors out no matter what the weather.

Joy Dennis, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “I want to thank everyone who contributes to keeping the county’s roads safe.

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“This includes the police and our fire and rescue service, our 61 school crossing patrols who see children and parents across the county’s roads every school day in all weathers, and, of course, our highway officers and contractor Balfour Beatty Living Places who, so far this year, have been called out to more than 2,600 emergencies, such as roads blocked by fallen trees and flooding, and keep a constant eye on the weather, ready to deploy our fleet of 19 gritters.

School crossing patrol

“But I also want to commend our Bikeability team of instructors. Investing in the future generations’ safety is so important and I congratulate the team for its hard work: even when the closure of schools meant courses had to be suspended last year, a team of instructors repaired abandoned bicycles destined for NHS workers.

Since re-starting in March 2021 more than 5,000 children have received Bikeability, formerly Cycle Proficiency, level one and two training, taking them from the basics of balance and control, through to planning and making independent journeys on busier roads.

Bikeability Balance courses were also re-launched in September for pupils in Reception and Year 1. This is a series of school-based sessions using games and balance bikes to develop their handling and awareness that aims to prepare children in Reception and Year 1 with the skills that they will need to take part in Bikeability Level One.

Natalie Perrin has been a Bikeability instructor for six years and teaches cycling skills to children in the area between Littlehampton and Chichester.

Bikeability instructor with two Southway Primary School pupils in Bognor Regis.

Natalie said: “I really enjoy working with children who aren’t necessarily that experienced on the bike.

“We often have riders who, for whatever reason, have not had access to a bicycle or an area near their home where they can practise their riding skills. When we meet them, they can be nervous and lacking self-confidence when cycling.”

Training starts with Bikeability Level 1. This takes place in traffic-free environments and allows the instructors to help them develop their basic bicycle controls skills, in preparation for riding on the road.

Natalie said: “It is great to see their self-confidence grow.

Council gritter

“I find it very rewarding progressing these riders onto roads and seeing them begin to make decisions independently. At the end of their training sessions, I love to see the children beaming from the experience.”

The locations of the training is often quite rural, or have speed limits of above 40mph, which the instructors avoid using for Level 2 training.

Natalie said: “This means we must find roads suitable for use that still present us with the level of traffic needed to carry out the Bikeability syllabus outcomes.

“We also try to use roads that our riders are likely to use again in the future, perhaps if cycling to school or a friend’s house. Often, the County Council instructors will advise each other on suitable roads, if they have local knowledge of them.

“It’s very satisfying when you string together a suitable and realistic cycling route.”

Bikeability helps young riders develop a riding strategy and road safety awareness whilst also helping to keep them fit and active.

Natalie said: “I think anyone wishing to become an instructor should have patience, empathy with their riders and be positive.

“Don’t worry if you haven’t had experience of instructing or cycle maintenance as this is all covered during your training.

“Finally, make be sure you like working outdoors. We train all-year-round, even in the cold and rain.”

So what can you do to be safer on the road?

Report any concerns you see. West Sussex County Council is responsible for maintaining around 2,500 miles of road: A and B roads are ordinarily inspected monthly, C-class and main distributor roads on a three or six-monthly basis and declassified roads are typically inspected annually.

Its highways officers cannot be everywhere, so the public’s eyes and help in spotting and reporting concerns, such as a pothole or overhanging tree branch, is really appreciated, and this can be reported via its website.

If a concern is a significant and immediate risk to public safety, please phone 01243 642105 or visit the website.

For anyone that wants to become a road safety hero there are a number of vacancies .

There are currently 61 School Crossing Patrols (SCPs) across West Sussex, seeing children and parents across roads in all weathers during term time.

West Sussex County Council, including West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, is a partner in the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP). The partnership also includes teams from Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, Highways England and Sussex Police.

The SSRP continues its work to reduce road casualties across Sussex with education, engagement, enforcement and engineering.