Cyclist deaths increase during recession

by giff77   January 2, 2012  

The following article from the Guardian makes interesting reading. Seems to be contrary to popular opinion that more cyclists = less cyclist deaths, yet it would appear that this doesn't happen when the country is in recession. http://bit.ly/vlDvOF

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I have only instinct and certainly no statistical backup for this but my theory for the UK is that with cycling generally at such low levels for so long there was always going to be a period of high cycling 'accidents' while road users readjusted to the changing situation. A tipping point will come sure enough when enough cyclists are using the roads, those still driving either grudgingly or through better enforcement of the rules will be driving more carefully and, yes, a whole new generation will have grown up with experience of cycling before they get behind the wheel of a car. So cheer up that's only another 10 years of increasing carnage assuming central and local government gets behind cycling.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 16:25

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The issue is that more cyclists doesn't equal fewer deaths, or certainly not to begin with, the 'safety in numbers' school of thought still requires a change of attitudes from other road users.

Say the number of cyclists were to double overnight. You'd hope the number killed each year wouldn't double, but it would almost certainly go up. What would fall would be the fatality rate, which isn't the same as the number of deaths.

According to CTC, "Research suggests that a doubling of cycling would lead to a reduction in the risks of cycling by around a third, ie. the increase in cycle use is far higher than the increase in cyclists’ casualties."

So casualties go up, but the chance of becoming one is reduced. The mistake the Guardian makes is by looking at absolute numbers in isolation - it's impossible to properly analyse casualty stats properly unless you also have the figures relating to how many people are actually cycling, and that is something that is notoriously difficult to pin down.

The Guardian, in this latest article, cites a 10 per cent increase in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured between 2007 and 2010.

But the same newspaper, in 2009, cited data that between 2007 and 2008 alone, there was a 10 per cent rise in rider numbers; so assuming there has not been a reduction in distance ridden since 2008, the inference is that the growth in cycling outstripped the growth in casualties over that period.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/nov/06/cycle-casualties-dea...

There are also errors in the Guardian's interpretation of the DfT's stats. For example, they say that in 25 per cent of cyclist fatalities, the cause was that the cyclist failed to look properly; that's actually the figure for all reported accidents (as distinct from casualties) involving cyclists, which is not the same thing at all.

One comment in the latest Guardian article in particular is highly misleading, and was seized upon by cycle campaigners: "Of the more recent high-profile fatalities in the capital, poor navigation at hotspots, such as Bow roundabout and Blackfriars bridge, as well as irresponsible driving by lorry drivers have been cited as key contributors."

While Blackfriars was the focus of safety campaigns last year, that's because of changes to the road design - as far as we can establish, the last fatality there was in 2004, when two cyclists were killed there, resulting in the introduction of cycle lanes removed in the latest redesign.

Meanwhile, the reference to "poor navigation at hotspots such as Bow roundabout" is very surprising coming from the Guardian, given that the newspaper itself has highlighted the flaws in the design of that junction that take cyclists off the Barclays Cycle Superhighway and into the path of lorries at the roundabout.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8954 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 16:56

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ps Vole O'Speed has written a very interesting critique of the Guardian article which you'll find here:

http://voleospeed.blogspot.com/2011/12/cycling-in-recessions.html

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8954 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 17:01

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I guess people getting out on bikes due to lack of petrol money doesn't make for the most willing or aware cyclist.

Plus more on the road means more to hit for the careless motorist.

posted by Super Domestique [1661 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 17:18

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Interesting but can't help being sceptical. Perhaps cycling deaths are actually linked to global warming?

Pete

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posted by PeteH [159 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 20:35

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We have a similar issue in the States with more cyclists sharing limited space on our roads. We have an education problem as well as a discipline problem. Education: some cyclists do not obey traffic laws - some motorists fail to give cyclists the space/safe distance even on roads painted with bike lanes. Discipline: some cyclists ride two or more abreast or fail to wear reflective gear (we call them organ-donors)... while our motorists continue to talk on the cells, text, twitter, and eat meals while driving to and fro! Folks! I saw a guy last year driving his car with his elbows with a cell phone in both ears! Safe travels in 2012. Keep year head on a swivel!

posted by dino [60 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 3:33

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Thanks Simon for O'Speed's link.

I was surprised that the Guardian was so lax in their interpretation of the figures. Over the years, I have seen as a driver and cyclist a constant decline in the skills and attitudes of drivers. As said. While there is an increase in cyclists there will be an increase in serious injuries and fatalities yet when factored in to road miles completed this figure will probably be small. Yet, inspite of the increase in sustainable transport local government continues to do the minimum in their provision for urban cyclists. Where I live the council is talking about reopening the High Street to vehicular traffic - why? To bring people back into the town! Yet, there is only two ASL's and approx half a mile of cycle lane in one of the largest towns in Scotland. Is it little wonder that 2011 saw an increase in fatalities. Westminster has no authority over what local government does with their roads, unless this changes then the urban cyclist will daily take their life in their hands. Better infrastructure and road skills from all will see a drop in fatalities IMHO

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posted by giff77 [1100 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 17:48

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giff77 - The Guardian article is so out of step with the rest of their (usually excellent) coverage of cycling issues that the only explanation I can come up with is that the author was filling in over the holiday period.

Looking at his profile on the Guardian site, he specialises in consumer issues for the newspaper. I'd be very surprised if any of the Guardian's regular cycling writers had seen the piece before it was published - if they had, a lot of the issues would have been addressed before it went live.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8954 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 18:11

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Ha - that makes total sense now. Thanks for that.

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posted by giff77 [1100 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 22:43

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