Express & Star

Cyclists’ crash fears over gas cannisters left in Black Country roads

Discarded laughing gas cannisters are proving a danger to cyclists on the region’s roads.

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Discarded Smartwhip canister in Smethwick

Smartwhip cannisters have become a familiar sight strewn across streets, discarded by those who misuse nitrous oxide.

The foot-long blue cannisters have caused a spate of accidents with either cyclists hitting them or swerving out the way to avoid them.

A discarded Smartwhip cannister on Broadway, Walsall
Cannisters are thrown on the floor by users in Walsall
A Smartwhip cannister on the road opposite Bescot Station
Smartwhip cannisters are 76 times more potent than metal canisters

Sandwell Council leader Councillor Kerrie Carmichael has branded the cannisters “a danger to the public”.

She said: “Not only are these newer stronger laughing gas cannister dangerous for those people who are indulging in them they are now becoming a danger on our roads too.

“Cyclists can feel vulnerable enough during the winter months in the dark and bad weather and now they have to contend with trying to avoid these cannisters which have been carelessly thrown in the road.”

Cyclist Wayne Fox has hit the foot-long cannisters on Sandwell’s roads several times after taking up cycling as part of his stroke rehabilitation.

He said: “I am trying to cycle more but what I am seeing are hundreds of 3kg Smartwhip cannisters in the gutters of the Black Country.

“They are potentially catastrophic for cyclists like me to hit. I have seen lots of posts on cycle forums about crashes being caused by them.”

“I’ve hit them at all times of the day - but worse - at night. They cause you to have to avoid puddles, pushing you out further into the road at short notice which easily could lead to me being mown down by a lorry or car.”

“I’ve sent photographs to my local MP for Walsall South Valerie Vaz in the hope she can bring it up in the Houses of Parliament. Something has to be done before someone is killed.”

Road racer Ab Woolass rides hundreds of miles a week practising for the Mavis Nye Foundation Cycling Team.

He said: “The smaller silver cannisters can be really dangerous, its like riding on an ice rink when there are lots of them. But these new blue cannisters look a lot bigger, they could cause a lot of damage to a tyre if hit at speed.”

The small alluminium nitrous oxide cannisters have become a familiar sight across the Midlands as users discard them in parks, roads and pavements.

In the last year there has been a rise in popularity of Smartwhip cannisters, which cost £30-£40 and are sold over the counter for use in the catering industry but mis-used by some.

Last week, the Express & Star revealed the latest phenomenon of “whip mouth” which is the term coined for the change in voice of those users who inhale directly from the Smartwhip cannisters.

Dr David Nicholl, clinical lead for neurology at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, has warned users about the dangers of nitrous oxide, which is still legal in the UK.

He said: “It is a drug that is used as an anaesthetic, but that’s with 50 per cent oxygen in a supervised environment with health professionals who understand doses.”

Misuse of laughing gas is currently the most common cause for emergency admissions to the neurology ward.

He said: “People come into hospital off their legs, difficulty walking, presenting with tingling in the hands and feet, slurred speech and more rarely seizures.

“I’ve even spoken to one ophthalmologist colleague who has seen a patient who went blind, but that was secondary to hypoxia caused by inhaling nitrous oxide.”