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The Times thinks so, but there's another way of looking at it...

Cyclists are just as dangerous to pedestrians as drivers. That’s the claim made by an article on The Times website today.

According to transport correspondent Phillip Pank, analysis of the 2012 road accident figures published by the Department for Transport reveals: “When serious injuries are measured as a proportion of distance travelled, cyclists injured 21 pedestrians per billion km travelled in 2012 compared with 24 pedestrians injured by drivers.”

To steal a phrase from debunker of Bad Science Ben Goldacre, we think you’ll find it’s more complicated than that.

What you really want to know here is how much of a risk different road users pose to pedestrians. It could be therefore misleading to take as your starting point the distances travelled by the those road users. You want the distances travelled by pedestrians.

road.cc doesn’t have an in-house statistician (applications are open, but be warned: the pay is lousy), so no doubt there are serious flaws in what follows and we expect smarter people than us to point them out in the comments.

The national travel survey says the average person travelled 6,691 miles in 2012. There 60 million people in the UK, so that's just over 400 billion miles.

Of that distance, 3 percent is walked so that's 12 billion miles of walking. For the sake of argument, let’s say that half of that is in the kind of urban environments The Times is talking about.

That’s 6 billion miles of walking which would get you out to Pluto’s orbit, if the frigid outer reaches of the solar system are your thing.

There were 79 pedestrians killed or seriously injured (KSI) by bikes in urban areas in 2012, so that’s one KSI per 75 million miles walked.

By contrast, there were 4,679 pedestrian KSIs involving motor vehicles - one KSI per 1.25 million miles walked.

That means for every mile you walk, you are 60 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by a driver than a cyclist.

Another criticism of The Times’ analysis, and one that the paper touches on, is that the injuries sustained by pedestrians who are hit by cyclists are likely to be less severe than injuries to those who are hit by drivers.

The DfT’s classification of serious injury is:

Serious injury: An injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an “in-patient”, or any of the following injuries whether or not they are detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns (excluding friction burns), severe cuts, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the accident.

An injured casualty is recorded as seriously or slightly injured by the police on the basis of information available within a short time of the accident. This generally will not reflect the results of a medical examination, but may be influenced according to whether the casualty is hospitalised or not. Hospitalisation procedures will vary regionally.

So a broken collarbone or mild concussion comes under the same heading as multiple broken bones and severe brain damage.

On the basis of its pedestrian-injuries-per-billion-vehicle-miles analysis, The Times concedes that “drivers are five times more likely than cyclists to kill a pedestrian.” It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that they are also far more likely to inflict the most severe injuries.

After all, what would you rather be hit by, a Mondeo doing 30mph, or a skinny cyclist doing 20mph?

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

59 comments

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [391 posts] 2 years ago
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> After all, what would you rather be hit by, a Mondeo doing 30mph, or a skinny cyclist doing 20mph?

In itself that's a pretty misleading question. IIRC most car accidents occur well below 30mph, many below 20mph, as the motorist involved had his/her foot on the brake pedal before the collision.

It's worth mentioning that some of the newest cars have given much thought to pedestrian collisions. Bonnets are designed not to intrude into the engine bay (no nasty pokey things hitting your head through the bonnet), bumpers are soft and deformable; Volvo even has an external airbag for just such a collision.

Which would I rather be hit by? Neither. Both are going to be very painful.

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Paul_C [468 posts] 2 years ago
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"After all, what would you rather be hit by, a Mondeo doing 30mph, or a skinny cyclist doing 20mph?"

neither personnally... I would hope the infrastructure kept the lemmings out of the road and off cyclepaths.

It would help themselves immensely if the lemmings stopped wandering out into the road with their head immersed in their mobile phone display and their ears blocked by their ear-buds blasting mindless pap into their ears to drone out the traffic noises... Also some idiots are out there wearing noise-cancelling headphones!!!! so they'll never hear your warning.

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dodgy [194 posts] 2 years ago
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As far as damage from cars and bikes, oozaveared of this parish did a cracking job http://road.cc/users/oozaveared

http://road.cc/comment/reply/108884/224309

Also, regarding mode of travel versus miles versus KSI rates. The space shuttle was considered very dangerous per 'commute' but exceptionally safe by KSI per billion miles travelled  1

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jason.timothy.jones [294 posts] 2 years ago
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Just an example of using numbers to deliberately confuse the reader and make the headline only stand out. Where anyone mixes statistical format (mixing percentages and fractions) I tend to dismiss the whole article as its clearly not written with any expertise

And then the last 3 paragraphs are added in for click back purposes

We are truly doomed

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jason.timothy.jones [294 posts] 2 years ago
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pedestrians should pay road tax and stop walking red lights

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md6 [181 posts] 2 years ago
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Sigh. So how many people were killed by cyclists in 2013? And how many by cars in the same year? I don't think the figures are even comparable (but cba to look them up - i'm sure soneone else will).

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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And this is a newspaper that was once supportive of cycling or they have moved on to the next bandwagon?

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oozaveared [940 posts] 2 years ago
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"After all, what would you rather be hit by, a Mondeo doing 30mph, or a skinny cyclist doing 20mph?"

I recently posted the basic physics on this. And it's at a scale that is staggering.

The calculation is this (Mass X Velocity Squared) over 2.

Let's take a 13 odd stone cyclist on commuter bike. (Not a skinny one.) That's roughly 100kg of mass. Let's say he/she is going at a decent clip I'll use 22mph because that equates to a nice round 10 metres per second.

100 x 10 squared /2 = 5000 joules of energy impact.

Remember 5000.

Ok let's take a little car A smart car say weighing 750kg and a passenger (small one) let's call that 800kg. Now let's do that equation again.

800 x 10 squared / 2 = 40,000 joules of energy impact.

8 times more impact energy. If the car is doing 44mph you can make that 160,000 joules or 32 times the impact.

and that's a small car at the same speed as a cyclist. Make it a range rover with 4 passengers in and you have 500,000 joules or 100 times the impact energy.

We don't even consider the fact that a cyclist hitting a pedestrian is soft tissue and bone hitting soft tissue and bone thereby mitigating the force of impact (cos the cyclist gets half).

And then consider the fact that a cyclist 100kg travelling at 22mph will stop much quicker and avoid impact more easily than 800kg or 2500kg at the same speed (or double in some cases).

The Times could have done these calculation. If they had they would realise that they were talking tosh.

Or they could just have looked at the road casualty statistics and seen that it's not cyclist doing the killing and injuring out there.

Whatever happened to common sense and O Level physics anyway?

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mrfree [76 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm willing to bet a fair portion of pedistrians injured by cyclists was either from cyclists braking the law, or pedestrians walking accross the road without looking.

The classic 'I can't hear anything so nobody is there'.

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sfichele [141 posts] 2 years ago
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65% of traffic volume was on motorways. Assuming pedestrians were not injured in these roads, the figure of 24 becomes 37

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sfichele [141 posts] 2 years ago
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65% of traffic volume was on motorways. Assuming pedestrians were not injured in these roads, the figure of 24 becomes 37

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qwerky [184 posts] 2 years ago
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Serious injuries as a proportion of distance travelled is not a relevant safety statistic.

Lets look at another irrelevant safety statistic. Lets compare number of pedestrian casualties in urban areas vs motorways, which would show you that statistically the safest place to walk is on the motorway.

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Gashead [33 posts] 2 years ago
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Most days I have to take evasive action around 3-5 pedestrians when cycling, at weekends maybe 1 pedestrian for every other journey by car. It's mainly a case of pedestrians taking the threat of a car more seriously. If pedestrians paid the same attention to me when driving at 30MPH as they do me to when I am cycling I would probably kill at least one pedestrian per week and on occasion a large group at Vauxhall Cross.

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I love my bike [150 posts] 2 years ago
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Exactly who cares how far the car/bike has travelled before it hits them?

It's weight, speed & required pedestrian safety features are more important!

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james-o [235 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

"After all, what would you rather be hit by, a Mondeo doing 30mph, or a skinny cyclist doing 20mph?"

neither personnally... I would hope the infrastructure kept the lemmings out of the road and off cyclepaths.

That sounds a lot like drivers who says bikes shouldn't get in their way and shouldn't be on the roads.

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georgee [165 posts] 2 years ago
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Forget KSI's, what about straight deaths?

About one ped is killed by a cyclist every two years. In comparrison 8 are killed by Bees and 12 by their own bedding.

So you're 24 times more likeley to be killed by your pillow than a cyclist. I suggest all wear hi-viz and a helmet to bed from now on.

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AWPeleton [3347 posts] 2 years ago
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In the north east the difference in the figures would be massive as we get very few reported collisions between cyclists and pedestrians whereas there seems to be a lot more numptie cyclists and car drivers in London who all seem to be in a hurry.

Is that a sign of a capital city where everything seems to be at a greater pace or is it that people in the north east are more careful ?????? I honestly dont know.

I wonder if someone had the figures in London to hand ?

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DaveE128 [571 posts] 2 years ago
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What about the difference in the number of pedestrian miles covered on shared used cyclist/pedestrian paths compared to the number of miles covered on shared car/pedestrian road (eg road with no pavement). I think there is a big difference?

As others have said, the choice of an exceptionally broad category of "serious injuries" grossly misrepresents the facts. Deaths would at least be a clearer-cut issue but perhaps that doesn't suit the journalist's agenda.

Abuse of statistics to sell papers isn't really anything new though.  2 Don't believe what you read without thinking about it carefully. The classic is "doing x doubles your chance of dying from y". When actually whether or not you do x, you are extraordinarly unlikely to die of y. In fact doing x could even drastically reduce your risk of dying of z.

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rogermerriman [84 posts] 2 years ago
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I have been hit by a skinny cyclists most likely doing more than 20mph, in Richmond Park a few years ago, I was standing by my bike putting my coat away, and some one from a well known club inspite of clear visibility and rode into my leg.

I'm reasonably tall and athletic build he was somewhat shorter and slight, so I got moved along by the impact but remained standing, he went over the bars landing hard on his back cracking the rim of the front wheel (dura ace) in a few places and taking a few chunks out of the frame.

I did have a bruise and limp for a few weeks, I suspect he took rather longer to recover!

Point of the tale being cyclists often come off worse vs if they collide with someone.

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FridgeARCC [3 posts] 2 years ago
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Another nail in the coffin of the pro-cycling Times, whose pro-cycling stance pretty much withered on the vine almost as soon as new editor John Witherow took over from James Harding last year.

Further evidence of institutional anti-cyclist bias (as if any was really needed) is in the following two sentences:

"Analysis of the past ten years of road casualty data by CTC showed that cyclists killed 23 pedestrians in the decade to 2012 and seriously injured 585. In the same period, 3,330 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles and 46,081 were seriously injured."

Here, 'cyclists' are active killers and 'motor vehicles' - and not their drivers - somehow managed to kill 144 times as many pedestrians as the 'bikes' did.

Same lazy thinking, same lazy journalism as we're used to.  45

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BikeBud [205 posts] 2 years ago
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Lies, damned lies, and statistics, etc.
How about we stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for ourselves and for others, when we're driving, when we're cycling, when we're walking.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1201 posts] 2 years ago
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FridgeARCC wrote:

Further evidence of institutional anti-cyclist bias (as if any was really needed) is in the following two sentences:

"Analysis of the past ten years of road casualty data by CTC showed that cyclists killed 23 pedestrians in the decade to 2012 and seriously injured 585. In the same period, 3,330 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles and 46,081 were seriously injured."

Here, 'cyclists' are active killers and 'motor vehicles' - and not their drivers - somehow managed to kill 144 times as many pedestrians as the 'bikes' did.

I think that's an excellent point.

The way drivers are erased from the picture and cars treated as if they are some sort of force of nature (like hurricanes, say), while cyclists are treated as moral agents with responsibility, seems very revealing of the way bias can be so deep that the biased party isn't even consciously aware of it.

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Northernbike [229 posts] 2 years ago
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stumps wrote:

In the north east the difference in the figures would be massive as we get very few reported collisions between cyclists and pedestrians whereas there seems to be a lot more numptie cyclists and car drivers in London who all seem to be in a hurry.

Is that a sign of a capital city where everything seems to be at a greater pace or is it that people in the north east are more careful ?????? I honestly dont know.

I wonder if someone had the figures in London to hand ?

I think many statistics presented as national would be much more useful broken down between London and everywhere else, the disparity between the two in so many things you might want to measure and cook up stats for being so great as to make lumping the two sets of data together as good as meaningless.

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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F= MxA

Motor vehicle always has more M and will often be travelling faster thus creating more A when it strikes the walker.

As Scottie says........

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ChairRDRF [308 posts] 2 years ago
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Another old chestnut. Having dragged myself through the statistics on this over a number of years, I have to say:
1. A tiny proportion of pedestrian KSIs involve cyclists. When walking you are far, far, far more likely to be hospitalised (let alone killed) in a collision involving a cyclist than a motorist.
2. When you bear in mind that there are far more motorists than cyclists and try to compare the chances of a pedestrian being hit by a cyclist per cyclist mile as compared to being hit by a motorist per motorist mile. (Of course , as one of the posters above points out, maybe as a pedestrian you are not really interested in that, but let's proceed anyway.) Even here as a cyclist you are much less likely to be involved in a collision where a pedestrian becomes a KSI statistic than you are if you are a motorist.
3. One of the reasons why the differential in 2 above is only 2 - 6 times (depending on annual variations in figures etc., etc.) is because pedestrians tend to be far less careful re-cyclist traffic than motor traffic, as pedestrians are less careful of cars/lorries etc. than cyclists - if you drive and cycle compare pedestrian behaviour to yourself. So the threat posed to pedestrians by cyclists compared to motorists goes down again.
4. Unlike Germany, Japan, and the USA, pedestrians cannot be prosecuted under the criminal law for careless behaviour - yet the can endanger cyclists (often just as much as cyclists can endanger pedestrians).
5. I am against this, but the Highway Code does recommend that pedestrians wear hi-viz. But not helmets. Yet.

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spen [128 posts] 2 years ago
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The most obvious problem with this statistic is that there are no accurate figures for the number of cyclists or the number of miles they travel! Also, given the title of the piece, this, from near the end seems a bit at odds with intent of the article

"Research by the City of Westminster Council last year found that, in collisions between pedestrians and cyclists, 60 per cent of the crashes were caused by the pedestrian. "

Perhaps it should have been "Pedestrians create army of cycling wounded"

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goggy [153 posts] 2 years ago
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Pedestrians don't see & hear cyclists, or under-estimate their speed. That's the issue we face, honestly.

In the beautiful place that is Canary Wharf last week, a private plod there decided that me yelling at a "not-looking-before-crossing-the-road-and-reading-my-smartphone-with-headphones-in" pedestrian that I was in danger of hitting was "startling" for him and uncalled for (he actually chased me in his converted golf cart).

My response was surprisingly docile - "go and shout at a motorist that hoots, then come back and I will agree with you".

I see so much hysteria since November, and more tension between motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. Enough with stupid articles - let's all just be courteous and aware.

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WolfieSmith [1323 posts] 2 years ago
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northstar wrote:

And this is a newspaper that was once supportive of cycling or they have moved on to the next bandwagon?

Yep. Is that poor girl still in a coma? Last year's news it seems.

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arfa [761 posts] 2 years ago
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I have yet to collide with a pedestrian but boy do some of them try in London. Everyone makes mistakes but it is the ones who see you and make no effort to clear off the road and usually have a shitty remark to make as you swerve/jam on the brakes.
Sad that the Times has gone down this route but it does employ Clarkson.

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goggy [153 posts] 2 years ago
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Strange fact. I have a very fast car that my wife normally drives. Yet the more I cycle - 4x as much as last year, at least so far this year  3 - the less I care about Top Gear and Clarkson.

Bring on my Tacx trainer and Strava goals!

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