Rise in cycling casualties on North Yorkshire roads – an unwanted legacy of Le Tour?

70 per cent rise in bad crashes in the last five year prompts council to investigate cyclist safety

by Sarah Barth   August 23, 2014  

Huddersfield - Ben Robinson

The number of serious bike crashes in North Yorkshire is up by more than 70 per cent in the last five years - just as cycling has taken off in the county according - prompting the Harrogate Advertiser to ask whether an upsurge in cycling generated by the Tour de France is a factor.

According to the Advertiser's analysis of casualty statistics for the area there has been a 70 per cent increase in major crashes on the county’s roads over five years, and a 30 per cent rise in the last two years - Yorkshire submitted it's bid to host the Tour Grand Depart in March 2012 (initially it was to host the 2016 edition of the race). 

As we reported earlier this year North Yorkshire County Council has already launched a Think Bike! safety campaign to stem the rising number of casualties on its roads among cyclists and motorcyclists.

There was a 70 per cent rise in the number of serious crashes in North Yorkshire in the past five years, from 20 in the first six months of 2009 to 34 in the same period for 2014. There was also a 30 per cent rise in serious crashes in the last two years, from 26 to 34. Serious injury is defined in the offical statistics as anything that requires treatment as a hospital in-patient or any of a range of injuries including concussion, fractures or severe cuts whether a hospital stay ir requried or not. 

While the rise in the number of casualties is an unpalatable fact there are no figures to show what if any change in the number of people cycling on North Yorkshire's roads has been over the same period.

Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rise in cycling numbers in Yorkshire particularly since last year when the Tour route was announced leading to cyclists from all over the country heading to Yorkshire to pits themselves against the road to be raced by the pros. So while casualty rates may have risen by 70 per cent over the period there is no way of knowing

Any 'Tour effect' on the rising casualty rate can be discounted before mid-2012 when Yorkshire launched it's bid; and the Tour stage routes in Yorkshire were only released in January 2013.

“The fact is there are more cyclists on our roads than ever before, and more casualties,” said Honor Byford, team leader for road safety at North Yorkshire County Council.

“It’s hard to say if that’s down to more people cycling on the Tour route, but we are doing this campaign regardless.

“If we can all learn to share the road it will make one hell of a difference.

“We do not have statistics to tell us how many cyclists used the Tour route roads before the announcement, nor afterwards, so we cannot calculate an accurate rate,” she said.

“That said, since we do know that the figures show a numerical increase, it is sufficient for us to want to do what we can to reduce that number so that more people can enjoy cycling in North Yorkshire without coming to grief.”

Regional authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber have created a safety app, led by the City of York council.

And a poster campaign to ‘Think Bike’ has been widely used, with poster billboards on bus shelters in Harrogate and on busy cycle routes.

 

Responding to the Harrogate Advertiser report British Cycling campaigns manager, Martin Key said: “Contrary to public perception, cycling is a safe activity.

Official figures repeatedly suggest that the general risk of cycling is very low with more people injured while gardening than cycling.

“However, more needs to be done to ensure that an increase in numbers of people cycling does not lead to a greater number of accidents. Major events like the Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games taking place in Britain provide us with an unrivalled opportunity to get more people on bikes.

“We must change road layouts, reduce speeds, improve infrastructure and create desirable cycle lanes if we are to reduce people’s concerns about riding in traffic.

“That is why we are calling on both local and national government to make a sustained investment and long-term commitment to cycling by adopting Choose Cycling - our 10-point plan to make Britain a true cycling nation.”

Last week we reported how the air quality in Huddersfield improved dramatically when roads closed around the Tour de France Grand Départ in July.

The council shut dozens of roads around the route,  from Ainley Top to Holme Moss, as well as a large number of feeder roads.

Monitoring stations in the town found that as a result, there was a big fall in air pollution during the times of the road closures.

There was a huge fall in nitrogen dioxide levels, a gas caused by heavy traffic.

Clr Steve Hall, Kirklees Cabinet member for Environmental Health, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: “We noticed a striking difference when the roads were closed to traffic. The drop in the pollution level was dramatic and immediate.

“The unusual situation created by the visit of the Tour de France highlights how our car use affects pollution levels and shows the benefits of cycling and walking.”

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Lies, damned lies and statistics.
I'd wager the increase in the number of crashes would correlate with a boom in the past 5yrs in cycling in the uk. Add to that the number of novices heading out on their own rather than in organised clubs and allow for a bit of variance in the figures and it's no real shock headline; especially as so few accidents appear to be with a car in the figures.

More useful would be to show the annual stats and look for a trend over time surely?

posted by Maggers [57 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 6:13

42 Likes

Bear with me.

If out of a cycling population of 100 cyclists 5 have an accident in a year then the accident rate is 5%. Yes?
If there is a boom in cycling popularity and the cycling population rises to 1000 and 50 cyclists have accidents then what has happened?
Has the accident rate remained at 5% or has there been a ten-fold increase in the number of accidents?

In fact both are correct but the reporting puts a completely different slant on the story.
Statistics do not lie but the people who use the statistics may be being economical with the truth.

posted by levermonkey [395 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 6:47

40 Likes

Meaningless statistic without the background information and figures.

How many more cyclists are hitting Yorkshire roads? I would guess quite a few given the publicity surrounding the Tour.

What number involve vehicles? What type of collision? Who was at fault?

without any of these any sensible conclusions cannot be drawn, and headlines are just sensationalist bollocks making cycling look dangerous to muggles

posted by gazza_d [273 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 8:01

37 Likes

Are the increases in line with the increase of Yorkshire Sportive events and the interest in cycling those areas covered?

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1018 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 8:25

36 Likes

Commenters are getting it right - you have to at least look at changes in amount of cycling. For a fuller guide into measuring danger, see http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/15/if-we-want-safer-roads-for-cycling-we-have...

posted by ChairRDRF [169 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 19:02

37 Likes

Quote:
Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rise in cycling numbers in Yorkshire

There is, but only the last few months can be related to the Tour so mentioning 5 year casualty stats & the TdF in the same sentence is pure bollocks. In fact, they surely can't have published any data from this summer yet.

Today I met up with a friend who lives in Hawes in the Dales. He said that his friends that run a B&B and other businesses have seen a noticeable increase in bookings; a good number of them have stated that the Tour prompted them to visit. I've no idea how many of them bring bikes but he said there are a lot more cyclists around on the roads compared to previous years.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 20:23

32 Likes

Rather than sticking a few "Think bike!" posters at bus stops, shouldn't the government be thinking about teaching drivers how to overtake safely? Basically point out that cyclists aren't fair game at: blind corners / brows of hills / alongside parked cars / level crossings / etc. And also that we're people with families, etc.

I feel that many drivers see cyclists and "think its ONLY a bike!".

I know all this is in the highway code, but I get the feeling many drivers see this as an instruction booklet that helps you through your test, and not the actual rules of the road to be adhered to for the rest of your life.

posted by dazwan [94 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 23:33

34 Likes

dazwan wrote:

I know all this is in the highway code, but I get the feeling many drivers see this as an instruction booklet that helps you through your test, and not the actual rules of the road to be adhered to for the rest of your life.

Well said.

ride slow, ride far, ride often

posted by mzungu [38 posts]
24th August 2014 - 6:54

32 Likes

Quote:
Rather than sticking a few "Think bike!" posters at bus stops, shouldn't the government be thinking about teaching drivers how to overtake safely? Basically point out that cyclists aren't fair game at: blind corners / brows of hills / alongside parked cars / level crossings / etc. And also that we're people with families, etc.

I agree with this. Close or unsafe overtakes are probably the biggest worry on a ride.

British Cycling have suggested adopting the French rule, of allowing min 1m in urban/30mph areas, and 1m50 in the countryside. They have signs reminding drivers of the rule.

If we changed the Highway Code, and adopted similar signs to the French ones, then the (currently low profile) minister for cycling could do a round of interviews. It wouldn't be a magic bullet, but it would help. At the moment, I think a lot of people have no idea how much space they ought to be leaving when they overtake.

posted by HarrogateSpa [133 posts]
24th August 2014 - 8:38

31 Likes

1 metre is still way too close...

the highway code has a very clear picture showing how far away you should be when overtaking, in fact you should go into the other lane completely... just like you would when overtaking a motorbike or car...

posted by Paul_C [260 posts]
24th August 2014 - 9:57

34 Likes

dazwan wrote:
I know all this is in the highway code, but I get the feeling many drivers see this as an instruction booklet that helps you through your test, and not the actual rules of the road to be adhered to for the rest of your life.

This is the essence of it - once they have passed their test, too many drivers feel they can ignore the rules and forget their responsibility to all other road users.

The 'niceway code' and 'please share the road' poster campaigns just do not work. Those who take notice are the ones who are generally decent and considerate in the first place.

But if everyone on the road exercised a modicum of patience and consideration we wouldn't have these issues.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
24th August 2014 - 11:25

26 Likes

On a positive note, the City of York have done good work to get normal people cycling and is the safest place to cycle in the UK.

posted by Ramuz [31 posts]
24th August 2014 - 13:46

32 Likes

gazza_d wrote:
Meaningless statistic without the background information and figures.

How many more cyclists are hitting Yorkshire roads? I would guess quite a few given the publicity surrounding the Tour.

What number involve vehicles? What type of collision? Who was at fault?

without any of these any sensible conclusions cannot be drawn, and headlines are just sensationalist bollocks making cycling look dangerous to muggles


Quite. Without answers to those questions, it's a non-story.

posted by SteppenHerring [231 posts]
24th August 2014 - 15:41

19 Likes

So we are in 2014, Yorkshire put their bid in for TdF in March 2012. That is just over 2 years Thinking So how is the TdF a contributing factor in the 3 years before that??? Especially as the final route isn't even released until less than a year before the event. Sounds like manipulated stats from a local hack trying to stir up an anti cycling rhetoric. How about looking at a lowering of standards of road craft amongst users.

posted by martib [48 posts]
25th August 2014 - 16:15

10 Likes

North Yorkshire is a notoriously bad County Council for considering cyclists. Apart from putting a few signs up they have done practically nothing to improve safety for cyclists in the county.

wildnorthlands's picture

posted by wildnorthlands [29 posts]
25th August 2014 - 17:27

6 Likes