Kilmovee man tells his story of losing a limb to urge drivers to mind cyclists

One of Ireland's elite Paralympic athletes has teamed up with the road safety office of Mayo County Council to produce an awareness video (
) to highlight the importance of giving cyclists a safe distance when overtaking with a minimum distance of 1.5m. Members of the general public were interviewed on what distance a driver should give when overtaking a cyclist, with some surprising results. The clips provides the feeling for cyclists as vehicles whizz by at speed just inches away from them.

Jerry Towey's own story is that on a Sunday night in November 1990, he found himself lying on a road in Foxford being told to keep his helmet on and ‘don’t look at your leg’. He had crashed his motorbike. Three weeks later his leg was amputated just below his knee, due to an infection and the extent of the injury. Six months later, he walked out of the National Rehabilitation Clinic in Dún Laoghaire with a prosthetic leg. When talking about the harsh reality of people losing limbs and becoming seriously injured in road traffic accidents, Jerry does not go into gory details. He simply says "It’s the same wards, but different faces in the beds."

Continuing, he said: “It’s the same stories. Late for a match, picking up the girlfriend. It’s always the same story.” He sees young men in the Dún Laoghaire clinic every time he attends for prosthetic appointments. “You can’t tell young lads, you just can’t. The reality was, there was six or seven lads in the Kilmovee area like me. It just happened that I was next for shaving. The next few generations there were lads up for shaving and they got it as well,” says the straight-talking Kilmovee man.

In July 2013, Jerry found himself lying on that cold tarmac once more. He was hit by a car while out cycling in preparation for two events, the World Para-Cycling Championships in Canada and the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cup, but Jerry is not one to give up. He is now putting his efforts to promoting road safety and continuing to train for Rio.

Noel Gibbons, road safety officer, said: "Driving can be a stressful and challenging experience but with cyclists in the mix extra tensions can arise. Equally, cyclists are very vulnerable and the road can be a scary place if you don't have the protective shell of a car body. That is why encouraging mutual respect and appreciation between car and bike users through this campaign is so important. The campaign reminds motorists to overtake cyclists with care and give at least 1.5m space between the vehicle and cyclist, we want to encourage more people to use the bike as a means of transport and for exercise.”

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