The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads jumped by more than a quarter in the first three months of this year against the comparable period in 2013 according to new official data, leading cycle campaigners to call for more to be done to improve the safety of riders.
Figures released by the Department for Transport reveal that between January and March this year there was a 27 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of bike riders killed or seriously injured, but it said that the reasons for the sharp jump were unclear.
Total road deaths in the year to the end of March were 1,750, a 4 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, with the number of fatalities of motorcyclists and cyclists each increasing by 7 per cent. The number of pedestrians and car occupants killed both fell by 1 per cent.
One potential factor explaining the first-quarter rise highlighted by the DfT include very cold weather at the start of 2013 which may have discouraged many cyclists from taking to their bikes.
However the unusually wet start to 2014, which saw flooding in many parts of Britain and would be expected to have a similar impact, does not appear to have reduced casualties among bike riders this year – and had the rainfall been lower, the DfT says casualties could have been higher.
The DfT added the warning that it is dangerous to read too much into a single quarter’s data and said that longer term trends would become apparent once more data are released for the current year.
As the chart below shows, however, deaths and serious injuries among cyclists continue to rise, and are now 34 per cent ahead of the 2005-09 average, while the number of all cyclist casualties, including minor injuries, is 26 per cent up against that period.
How much that may have to do with any increase in the number of people cycling or changes in the total distance being racked up by Britain’s cyclists is impossible to say.
Martin Key, campaigns manager at British Cycling, said: "The fact is that our roads are not designed with cycling in mind, and these latest road casualty figures are a reflection of that.
"Without adequate and sustained funding for cycling of at least £10 per head, coupled with real political leadership and national targets, Britain will continue to fall far short of great cycling countries like Holland, Germany and Denmark."
Meanwhile, Sustrans has called on the government to reduce speed limits and provide separate funding for infrastructure for people on foot and on bikes.
The sustainable transport charity’s policy adviser, Rachel Bromley, said: “Despite government assurances that are roads are getting safer, these statistics continue to reveal an alarming trend of unnecessary deaths and serious injuries for our most vulnerable roads users.
“The sharp rise in casualties over the last quarter will only serve to further deter people from walking and cycling and promote a growing fear among parents that children are safer inside the car than out.
“It is unacceptable that the government allows this to continue when a simple solution is at hand – it’s time to bite the bullet and make dedicated funding available to transform local walking and cycling routes and introduce lower traffic speeds,” she added.
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.