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Barts and the London charity says not enough use being made of data to help prevent collisions

A charity associated with the Royal London Hospital, where hundreds of seriously injured cyclists have been treated in recent years, is looking for donors to help fund a database of cycling casualties that it says can help reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured while riding their bikes.

Barts and the London Charity says that while advances in surgical treatments are helping save lives, analysis of information regarding collisions involving bike riders is key to improving cycle safety.

Research reported in the London Evening Standard shows that since 2004, the Royal London hospital's trauma team has treated 708 cyclists admitted with serious injuries following road traffic collisions, all but 40 of whom survived.

However, the charity says it needs donors to help fund its proposed database, which it believes can cut cyclist casualties, and it also says that the idea of using data to prevent collisions isn't receiving enough attention at the moment.

The database would cost £130,000 to develop and would be accompanied by a smartphone app that would enable victims to provide details of their recovery from their injuries.

The Standard's Ross Lydall says that data captured would include "whether the crash involved a HGV, car or pedestrian, the personal details of the cyclist, what happened before the collision, and if helmet and high-visibility clothing were worn."

Together with other information such as the location of the incident, that could allow patterns to be identified, as well as hotspots being mapped.

According to Barts Charity: “There is evidence that reduction in mortality is due to improvements in trauma and emergency care at major trauma centres such as the Royal London hospital, rather than effective pre-collision interventions.”

Barts Charity hosted a seminar at the end of January, chaired by broadcaster Jon Snow, who is also president of national cyclists' organisation CTC, which addressed the question: "Can advances in medicine and research at Barts Health impact the number of killed or seriously injured people from cycling incidents?"

One of the speakers was the Barts Health NHS Trust's professor of public health, Allyson Pollock, who said: “We have pretty good data on mortality through the police reports. What we don’t have is good data on injuries — the mechanism, location and cause of injury.

“That would help us identify injury hotspots and where we need to make an intervention, and monitor whether an intervention works. At the moment, we are working in the dark on injury prevention.”

Changes in NHS accident emergency provision in the capital in recent years and the development of its major trauma unit has seen the Royal London become the busiest hospital for such cases in the capital, with a 2009 study finding it had twice the number of admissions as the next biggest, King's College Hospital.

That's reflected in the growth in the number of cyclists admitted there with serious injuries - 24 in 2004, but 117 last year.

The vast majority of patients admitted to the Royal London's trauma unit are taken there by the London Ambulance Service or London’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, which is based there, but some also arrive from outside the capital, including in the Essex & Herts or Kent & Surrey air ambulances.

Despite the growth of cycling in London in recent years, according to Transport for London data, the average number of cyclists killed each year on the city's streets over the past decade is 13, down from 16 in the ten years to 2003.

However, the number of people seriously injured has been climbing steadily, almost doubling from 332 in 2004 to 657 in 2012, the last year for which data are available.

Green Party politician Baroness Jones has regularly questioned Mayor of London Boris Johnson and TfL over cycle safety, and has said that her own analysis of data relating to casualties and the level of cycling in London proves that contrary to claims that cycling is getting safer in London, the opposite is the case.

She told road.cc yesterday: "Road Safety campaigners have always known that to understand road danger, you have to count the injured as well as the dead. It's time that Boris admitted he has made London's roads less safe and began to reverse the trend. London needs more cyclists, not fewer."

Barts Charity has set up a @cycleinnovation Twitter feed where you can find more information about its proposals.

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.