After Tim Atkins was tragically killed on Eastern Road in June this year, the city was shocked.
Tim was clearly popular in his own right – tributes paid to him after his death and at a vigil in Guildhall Square attended by more than 150 people testify to that.
But this sad accident struck a chord for many people because there was a distinct feeling: ‘this could have been me’. Mr Atkins, who was riding north on the Eastern Road cyclepath, collided with another cyclist. He fell into the road and was hit by a van.
And as today’s report of the inquest makes clear, there has been no blame attached to anyone involved, and Mr Atkins’ family bear no malice. The investigating police officer said that due to the layout of the road and the overhanging hedge two cyclists would not have seen each other until it was too late.
Now, for years many – including The News – have argued that Portsmouth should be reinventing itself as a cycling capital.
It’s flat and compact, two perfect ingredients for cycling. It is also beset with congestion, which while not great for those already on two wheels, means there is an inducement to get cars off the road. The days of hundreds of workers leaving the dockyard on bikes may be gone, but we have long said that more cyclists could and should be encouraged on to the roads.
And there are signs that cycling is gaining more currency. The city has an active and vocal cycle forum that lobbies for change, and the city council is acknowledging that the current car-centric nature of Portsmouth cannot hold; traffic jams will only get worse and the number of spare parking spaces will only diminish.
Work has taken place to make the area where Mr Atkins died safer. While that was necessary and appreciated, it cannot stop here. Rather than be reactive, we must see the authority be proactive, and examine other areas where – whether on a designated cycle lane or on the road – cyclists are at risk. That would be a fitting memorial to a man who could and should still be alive today.