A Shropshire town has the unenviable record of being the motorcycle death and accident capital of the UK, it was revealed today.
Proportionately there are more bikers killed and seriously injured in and around the picturesque town of Bridgnorth than anywhere else in Britain, says the Community Safety Partnership.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, whose firefighters are regularly called to recover the dead and rescue the injured from road crashes, is working with Bridgnorth District Community Safety Partnership in launching an education campaign targeted at county motorcyclists.
The Partnership, which includes Bridgnorth District Council, West Mercia Constabulary, the Safer Roads Partnership and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, want to combat last year's "shocking" statistics in which five motorcyclists died and 16 were seriously injured in and around the roads of Bridgnorth.
There were a total of ten fatal collisions in the area â€“ and half were motorbike riders. Out of 36 seriously injured casualties â€“ 16 were riding a motorbike. There were also more than 100 minor crashes involving motorcycles, said David Jennings, Retained Support Officer for the brigade based in south Shropshire.
"In the Bridgnorth area just one per cent of road users are motorcyclists but they make up half of all road deaths. These are shocking statistics. They are the worst figures in the UK," Said Councillor John Hurst-Knight, Community Safety Partnership Chairman and a member of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority.
He spoke out just a few weeks after a rider died on the Bridgnorth to Ludlow road at Middleton â€“ the first motorbike fatality of 2008 in the area. There was also another motorbike crash near Swancote Country Club last Saturday.
"We just know that unless we find the key to this and get the road safety message across to bikers then this will not be the only tragedy."
Members of Bridgnorth District Community Safety Partnership are meeting up to 1,000 bikers who gather at Swancote Country Club on the outskirts of Bridgnorth every Wednesday starting on May 21. The fire brigade's Outreach Vehicle, specially adapted to display audio with images for education campaigns, will be on the site.
A startling reminder about the tragic consequences of a road crash will be displayed in the shape of a crashed motorbike on which a man died last year. His widow has given permission for the bike to be on display to help prevent more tragedies.
On Summer nights, Shropshire â€“ and particularly the Bridgnorth area â€“ becomes a "hotspot" for bikers from the West Midlands travelling through the countryside to Craven Arms and onto Wales.
The Partnership will be staging their stark display for a number of evenings during the Summer months and at Alan's cafÃ© on the A442 between Kidderminster and Quatford where bikers stop on Sunday mornings. They will be giving away ear plugs and a leaflet with important information to motorcyclists.
"Our message to motorcyclists is a positive one. We want them to enjoy the roads of Shropshire but to ride responsibly and recognise hazards. They should respect other road users especially when riding powerful bikes and to consider the effect it will have on their families if they come to Shropshire and kill themselves," said Councillor Hurst-Knight.
"Although some crashes are caused by other road users, the statistics show that most motorcyclists killed on the roads around Bridgnorth are riding too fast and the crash is completely their fault," he said.