Sheffield horse rider ‘thought she was going to die’ as stolen van sped past at 70mph
It is a beautiful country lane.
But although the rural stretch of Sheffield’s highways network looks quiet and peaceful, a group of city horse riders see dangers there.
They have told of the risks they encounter when they come across cars, and how close calls with vehicles on the city’s rural roads have on occasions left them terrified.
Eleven riders joined forces to raise concerns over how some motorists drive past horses, and to urge drivers to slow down and give them space.
They took their mounts on a ride along roads near Wadsley and Loxley Common to demonstrate the dangers that can face riders and their horses, as part of a national campaign called Pass Wide And Slow.
Rider Jane Gregory, from Worrall, said: “The stats show a year on year increase in incidents, and I myself had a driver pass me earlier this year on Kirk Edge Road at an estimated speed of 75mph plus.
“It turned out it was a stolen vehicle that had been used in various robberies, but that's another story.
"I thought I was going to die, to be honest. I could see him coming like a bat out of hell.”
She said he was lucky – her horse moved, but only slightly, and to the side.
Jane said: “Pass Wide And Slow is a national campaign aimed to raise awareness of the increasing number of horses and riders killed and injured each year on our roads, something which the British Horse Society BHS has been collating data on in recent years.”
The British Horse Society keeps a record of the number of reports it gets of incidents, injures and horse fatalises involving cars, for the whole of the UK.
Its figures for South Yorkshire show an increase of nearly 67 per cent in the number of dangerous encouters with vehicles that have been reported to them over the last couple of years.
The organisation reported 15 during 2020-2021. That compared to nine during 2019 – 2020.
The riders involved in the ride in Wadsley, their first of its sort in the this area, ranged in age from children to people in their 60s.
After meeting up at the top car park for Wadsley and Loxley Common, they headed down Long Lane, right along Loxley Rd, up West Lane and along Myers Lane back to the start.
Jane added: “I've been riding in this area since the 1970s but recently it has become so busy that at weekends I usually get up at the crack of dawn to get out and back before the traffic. Otherwise it's effectively out of bounds.
“Some motorists are brilliant, slowing right down, passing wide and slowly accelerating away and we want to recognise and thank them for their consideration.
"The majority of the rest tend to either slow down somewhat or go fairly wide, then there's the smallish minority who seem either oblivious to the horse's presence, or are openly hostile.
"About three months ago a man in a white van was shouting at me on Myers Lane that he paid road tax and I didn't, so I should get out of his way. There's a deep ditch on both sides of the road obscured by long grass which was why I couldn't 'get out of his way'.”
One of the riders at the event decribed how she had a vehicle pass her so close near Dam Flask, that her stirrup clipped their wing mirror.”
Despite the incidents they have seen on the city’s roads, the group found most of the motorists on the day of their ride conducted themselves well, although they said there were a couple who caused them concern on Loxley Road.
Riders are also concerned there are fewer bridle paths across the country for horses to use than there have been in the past, and are concerned that more may be taken away,
Police have also been raising the issue of safety around horses on the city’s roads in recent weeks
The force’s Operational Support Roads Policing officers and Mounted unit joined together for a safe passing operation as part of Project EDWARD – Every Day Without A Road Death – recently.
The national campaign, in which they had been work on locally with South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership, looks to protect all road users by educating about safe driving practices.
Roads Policing Inspector Jason Booth said: “So many people were really good and have the horses a wide berth. For those that didn’t, we were there to give them advice on safe driving so as to protect all road users in future.”
Police have previously given advice on how to safely pass horses on the roads.
The recommend that those passing horses should slow down to 15mph or less, and avoid sounding the horn or revving the engine.
They advise passing the horse wide and slow, leaving at least a car’s width, and to drive away slowly.
They also advise riders to wear high visibility clothing, as does the British House Society, which says while there is no way to 100 per cent guarantee that a driver will pass a rider in a responsible manner, wearing hi-vis will strengthen an insurance claim in the unfortunate circumstances that something goes wrong.
Horse riders who encounter an incident on the road can report it to the British Horse Society through its safety app, ‘Horse i’. If you do not use a smartphone, you can still record incidents via the online form at horseincidents.org.uk.