Cycling deaths down as London's roads now safest "since records began"

Cycling deaths down and the capital's roads are getting safer for cyclists

by Tony Farrelly   May 18, 2011  

Traffic Jam in Croydon Pic: Chris McKenna

New figures released by Transport for London and City Hall show that last year the capital's roads were the safest since casualty records began in the 1970s with the total number of people killed dipping below 150 for the first time.

Last year, 126 people died on London's roads a 32 per cent drop from the 185 people killed in 2009, 10 cyclists lost their lives in London in 2010 down from 13 the year before – although the number of cyclists seriously injured went up from 420 to 457, as did the number of slightly injured - up to 3540 a 9 per cent rise on 2009, two of the few statistics going in the wrong direction in last year's figures – something touched upon by London's Mayor, Boris Johnson when the announced the new figures:

"London's roads are now much safer than they were a decade ago and the Metropolitan Police, London Boroughs and Transport for London all deserve praise as other countries look to our lead.

'But there is still much more to be done, especially around the safety of cyclists on our streets, and that is exactly why we continue to fund road safety schemes across the Capital."

Last year the Mayor announced that he would be allocating an extra £4m pounds spread over 3 years to 13 outer London Biking Boroughs - last week he announced how much each was to get, the money will be used says TfL "To create cycle hubs and safer cycling environments in Outer London. This funding will help boroughs engage the local community in cycling, create better cycle infrastructure and parking as well as making cycling safer generally." The money works out to an average of £307,000 per borough.

As yet there seem to be no plans to reinstate the London Orbital cycle route that would have connected cycle routes in the outer London borough which was axed by the present Mayor to pay for his flagship hire bike scheme.

Transport for London has also allocated £14.8m to be spent on road safety schemes in general - some of which is also likely to be spent on measures to improve safety for cyclists. Commenting on this Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, said:

"Road safety is something that TfL takes exceptionally seriously.

"The £14.8m we will be directly spending on road safety schemes across London during 2011/12 will look to build on the tremendous achievements we have achieved in the last ten years, as well as further reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the Capital's roads every year."

On 2009 figures London's roads were already amongst the safest in the country with a figure of 24 deaths per million people compared to the national average of 38, by comparison the figures for Sweden are 39 per million, the Netherlands are 44 per million, Germany 51, France 66, and the USA 111.

The figures for 2009 in particular show an impressive drop in casualty numbers across the board – although it is also worth noting the recent economic downturn is likely to have had an effect, a phenomenon noted by the Department for Transport when it announced the national figures. Traffic levels across the country having dropped slightly an in particular for some classes of vehicle - lorries and van, which are involved in a disproportionate number of casualty incidents. One other possible factor to note in London's success is the average speed that traffic move in the capital which has been dropping for much of the last two decades.

London's achievement in reducing road casualties is nonetheless impressive, especially when viewed over the longer term – the overall numbers of deaths on the its roads have almost halved since the late 90s while even allowing for last year's rise in the number of seriously injured cyclists, the number of riders killed and seriously injured on the capital's roads (KSIs) has fallen by 18 per cent since the mid to late 90s while at the same time the numbers of cyclists on the road has grown massively. According to TfL's figures the number of daily cycle trips on its road network has risen by 150 per cent since 2000, (in 2010 there was a 15 per cent year on year rise in cycle trips), while the number of deaths per cycling trip has dropped by 60 per cent over the corresponding period. The figures would cseem to back up the central idea of the CTC's Safety in Numbers campaign, namely that the more cyclists there are on the roads the safer cycling becomes.

Drilling down further in to the figures for cycling, it can be seen that 77 per cent (3120) of cycling casualties were male while 33 per cent were female which roughly reflects the gender balance of cyclists on the capital's roads, however the TfL figures do not offer a breakdown by gender on fatalities which we suspect would show that a disproportionate number of women riders are dying on London's roads.

The figures also break the casualty figures down by borough and while both inner and outer London share the same per centage rise - 9 per cent overall there are wide variations between the boroughs some of the outer London Boroughs actually saw some quite high percentage rises in cycling casualties, but they were coming off a much lower base - Barking and Dagenham saw a 57 per cent jump in cycling casualties - up to 54.
In inner London Camden saw a 40 per cent rise in cycling casualties year on year up to 234, while neighboring Islington saw a mere 1 per cent rise – although the actual number of casualties was almost the same at 232 – the borough with the most cycling casualties was Westminster – 308 up 2 per cent from 2009. The full document can be downloaded from the TfL website.

6 user comments

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Hmm, despite the claim TfL takes road safety seriously, there is still official inaction over a dangerous junction in South London. I've raised this with TfL on several occasions but a 'safety expert' said the junction is not a risk. This is in spite of frequent red light running by bus and car drivers at the junction and a number of serious accidents. Basically, unless there's a fatal accident TfL won't do anything.

The message TfL puts out does not square with my experience. I'd want to study the data in this report very closely to see if it stands up.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
18th May 2011 - 10:28

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I could not see how many of the fatalities involved vehicles, were any not involving cars/lorries?

Also deaths per million in comparison to other countries, appears good but out of that million how many are actually cycling in comparison to other countries.

Probably some of the biggest contributions to safety has been the increase in petrol, tube strikes and congestion charges.

posted by surreyxc [44 posts]
18th May 2011 - 10:38

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If the casualty numbers are adjusted to account for the increased number of cyclists it looks as though the slight rise in serious and minor injury totals will convert to a pro rata fall. A slight rise in overall minor injuries is very likely when you get an increase in the number of cycle journeys being made.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [468 posts]
18th May 2011 - 10:43

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They don't seem keen to mention the figures for 2011 so far - cyclist deaths in London are sharply up on last year in terms of monthly rate.

In any case, there is nothing for them to be complacent about. You could have no cyclist/pedestrian road deaths at all, if you drive them all away from the roads altogether by making them unpleasant and unsafe-feeling.

TfL still doesn't get it, that in London the numbers of pedestrians (and cyclists) far outnyumber the number of motor vehicle travellers, and yet it is always necessary to improve car journey times whatever the effect on pedestrians.

Take the review of traffic signal timings. They proudly tell us (in the consultation report on the road nework out around now) that they have improved the percentage of vehicles, waiting at lights and getting through lights on the first green phase, while marginally improving the number of pedestrians ditto - but what has happened to the average waiting time for pedestrians? I'll wager it has increased.

posted by Paul M [305 posts]
18th May 2011 - 12:50

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Looking at the figures maybe vehicles would be killing more if more weren't being saved by improved medical treatments compared with the 1970's? Injuries are up so saved lives are probably up as well. I love facts and figures - so much back story and spin potential.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1022 posts]
18th May 2011 - 18:23

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Yes, certainly a lot of the people that would have been killed 20 years ago are now injured due to improvements in medical care, vehicle design and the slowing down of traffic due to congestion, the numbers of people injured has probably fallen for the same reasons too.

It is interesting that no-one has attempted to make the connection between there being more cyclists on the streets and those streets becoming safer too - that could be said to be the biggest chance to the make up of traffic in London over the past few years when we have seen the sharpest drop in casualty numbers.

Totally agree Paul, about TfL's seeming bias towards the motorists - what's particularly odd is that in Central London in particualar you would think that most of the economic benefit comes from pedestrian - who seem to be the least well served of all. The point about meeting the targets for reducing child deaths has been made here many times before - it's easy to reduce the numbers of children killed if you make the roads so terrifying that no responsible parent would want their child to go near a road without an adult in tow. It was a point made about the last Government's road safety targets in the Changing Lanes report by the Audit Commission, I'm pretty sure they made the same point about cycling too.

Statistics like this are always interesting though, as much for what they don't tell you as what they do - there are some eye-catching stats in there though a 15 per cent increase in cycling trips in London in one year is pretty good going.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
18th May 2011 - 23:28

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