Slowing motorists down the best way to increase safety for cyclists says DfT report

Review of evidence casts doubt on safety benefits of cycle lanes and Advanced Stop Lines too

by Tony Farrelly   November 29, 2011  

Cycle lane

Cutting vehicle speeds, particularly at junctions, and improved road surfaces would be the single most effective measures to increase the safety of cyclists on Britain's roads concludes a new report, Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety, commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The report which brings together all the existing data on cycliing infrastructure in the UK also says that it will take decades of sustained investment to achieve a functional urban cycle network across the country and a willingness to prioritise cycle traffic – the report also warns that piecemeal implementation of cycling infrastructure "is unlikely to be satisfactory".

Slowing down traffic, particularly at junctions, is identified as having the biggest likely impact on reducing cycling casualties in multi vehicle collisions says the report which also points out that this would also reduce casualties for all road users. Suggested methods of achieving this include physical traffic calming, redesigning urban streets in both their appearance and the way they are designed to be used by pedestrians and the wider use of 20mph speed limits.

When it comes to reducing single vehicle collisions involving cyclists the report highlights improvements to road surfaces as being the best way to lower the rate of cycle casualties although interestingly it is slippery road surfaces rather than potholes which it identifies as the biggest hazard.

However it is what the report has to say about other aspects of Britain's cycling infrastructure that will give food for thought to all sides in the debate on how best to provide the right environment for cycling in Britain.

According to the report's authors there is little evidence for the safety benefits of cycle lanes, or advanced stop lines; and while segregated cycle lanes can offer greater safety to cyclists the points at which they connect with the road network can be so dangerous that they negate the safety benefit of segregation, these are just some of the conclusions of a report in to infrastructure and cycle safety commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT).

  • ASL - limited data, but limited evidence of benefit particularly associated with junctions. Notwithstanding this lack of evidence, ASLs may provide a priority for cyclists and might be applicable where there are heavy flows of right-turning cyclists.
  • Cycle lanes - There is little evidence in the UK that marked cycle lanes provide a safety benefit, although they may achieve other objectives. This lack of evident benefit may, however, represent a lack of quality and continuity in implementation. There is also extremely limited experimentation with, and no reported studies of, kerbed cycle lanes in the UK.
  • Segregated Cycle lanes – Providing segregated networks may reduce risk to cyclists in general, although evidence suggests that the points at which segregated networks intersect with highways can be relatively high-risk, sometimes of sufficient magnitude to offset any safety benefits of removing cyclists from the carriageway. However may be applicable particularly in rural settings.

Measures suggested as effective for improving safety at junctions include cycle pre-signals, continuing cycling lanes across junctions, raised cycle lanes at junctions, installing traffic signals at major roundabouts, and changing the design of roundabouts to slow traffic and to change the turning geometry to a sharper angle as on European roundabouts (thus eliminating the driver's blindspot). All of these measures have says the report had a measureable effect on improving safety for cyclists in other European countries most notably the Netherlands.

Interestingly while the report can seemingly find evidence for the safety benefits fo cycle lanes in other European countries it can find little evidence for their effectiveness in Britain -  as the report notes "a lack of quality" may be a factor in that. Perhaps tellingly Britain's best know network of urban cycle lanes London's Barclays Cycle Superhighways is currently the focus of much criticism with poor implementation and the failure to heed safety advice - including many of the measures this report highlighs as being particularly effective - being blamed by many for the recent deaths of two cyclists at Bow roundabout.

The report also has interesting things to say about the design and implementation of both traffic calming measures and cycling infrastructure. While the authors say that traffic calming in general is beneficial to cyclists, they also advise road designers to be aware that features such as road narrowing and speed cushions have the potential for creating additional conflict between cyclists and other road users. Those designing infrastructure for cyclists also need to ensure that it meets cyclists needs otherwise warns the report it risks making a problem worse not better

Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety is part of a wider research project, Road User Safety and Cycling being carried out by the DfT and involved researchers from the Transport Research Laboratory reviewing all the existing literature on cycling infrastructure in the UK. The report can be downloaded from here on the Department for Transport website.

40 user comments

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Proper enforcement of existing rules would make a huge improvement. There are far too many drivers at the wheel while under the influence of drugs and the police have had few tools to address this problem. The 20mph limit for residential reas and around schools is a good one. The problem with many traffic calming measures is that they enrage vehicle drivers and are therefore utterly counter-productive.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
30th November 2011 - 10:46

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I wonder if TfL was able to find one ASL where the law was enforced.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
30th November 2011 - 12:38

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one way to start enforcing ASL and cycling rules is to target drivers that Tfl have a direct influence over - bus drivers and taxi drivers. It is usually these people that you come into conflict with in London (and I guess oop north too)the public carriage office and the PSV people have the tools. I also think that light goods vehicle drivers should be more regulated.

robbiec

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posted by robbieC [62 posts]
30th November 2011 - 12:48

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Proper enforcement of existing rules would make a huge improvement. There are far too many drivers at the wheel while under the influence of drugs and the police have had few tools to address this problem.

Sure that's a problem, but I think the real change and challenge is going to be with the mainstream rather than those at the edges, like people driving around under the influence. They're high profile, but it's the attiudes towards driving of society in general that needs to change in this country.

posted by Chuck [358 posts]
30th November 2011 - 13:44

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I have managed to improve my safety while commuting by using cycle paths for about 16 miles of my commute.

My commute is now 5 miles longer though.. Thinking

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
30th November 2011 - 14:04

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robbieC mentions light goods vehicles...Having been a professional driver for many years I can state with authority that there is a lot of pressure both from management and colleagues to get the job done and get back to the depot. However penalties are almost exclusively targeted at the driver. What I would like to see is when a professional driver is penalised so should the company; unless they can demonstrate that the time allowed to do the route is realistic without breaking every rule in the book. I used to treat speed limits as advisory, unload the vehicle whilst the taco was on break and still be significantly slower than some! I regularly see light vans being driven like they are on some sort of race track; surely this is a major cause of incidents.

posted by SideBurn [765 posts]
30th November 2011 - 15:54

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@Sideburn -
Seems like a very reasonable point - people under pressure to perform or risk their jobs could easily cut corners - both metaphorically & literally

@JohnS -
No - the 'Reply' function is busted

posted by mad_scot_rider [538 posts]
30th November 2011 - 16:16

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A lot of junctions and roundabouts are designed with a large turn radius so that motorists can maintain a high speed through them. Simple to design them otherwise.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1333 posts]
30th November 2011 - 16:28

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They can go slow and still hit a cyclist. Better driving instruction plus a change in the National Driving test incorporating training for other road users ie cyclists and horse riders is needed, decades overdue imo.

Then you might see a decline in the needless deaths of cyclists.

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
30th November 2011 - 16:38

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SammyG wrote:
I have managed to improve my safety while commuting by using cycle paths for about 16 miles of my commute.

My commute is now 5 miles longer though.. Thinking

Longer is good-er Wink

My longer commute is still entirely on-road but uses quieter country lanes, so nicer than what feels like 'fencing on wheels' on the days when I use the busy roads through town to work (though a part of me enjoys the cut-and-thrust).

As for vans, I'd like to see all commercial vehicles display the business name so we'd have a better idea of who to complain to.

Needless road deaths will only reduce when others either (1) fear for their license or livelihood or (2) respect the safety of others adequately. I'd say the authorities have a better chance of the first option working than the second. Similarly, I'd also suggest that Chuck is right, in that many drivers seem to think they 'own the road' and cyclists etc are an inconvenience. This idea really needs to change.

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posted by Simon E [1919 posts]
30th November 2011 - 17:01

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But its not collisions that cause the largest number of cycling injuries. While collisions cause the most serious, slowing vehicles will not prevent single user and non-collision incidents. This link reports numbers of emergency admissions to hopsital beds (not attendances at emergency departments) that are viewed as some of the most serious injuries.

http://www.hesonline.nhs.uk/Ease/servlet/ContentServer?siteID=1937&categ...

Slowing vehicles is expected to encourage more people onto the roads on thier bikes, which is a good thing, from our point of view.

Injury Prevention Manager
NHS Bristol

posted by Rob Benington [16 posts]
30th November 2011 - 18:19

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I can't imagine any situation where narrowing a road would make it safer for any road user. We need wider roads, not narrower ones. As a cyclist and motorist I am frustrated when encountering situations where road users are forced together by road narrowing either due to the natural obstacles or because some idiot highway engineer thinks it's a good idea to put bollards int he way. as for the type of motorist that is most dangerous, in my experience it's the impatient mother on school run who thinks that cyclists don;t belong on the road. And the main problem with cycle paths that run adjacent to carriageways is that the cycle path always gives way to side turning whereas it should be the other was round, obviously. Until these issues are addressed, we're screwed!

Andy

posted by jazzdude [59 posts]
30th November 2011 - 18:23

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And yes the problem with roundabouts is they are designed to allow motor traffic to negotiate them at much too high speeds. That's what makes them so dangerous for both cyclists and other motor vehicles.

Andy

posted by jazzdude [59 posts]
30th November 2011 - 18:24

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Finally the DfT is seeing sense! Will we actually see some of their thoughts implemented though. I'm all for 20mph limits that are enforced. You could rip out the pinch points as well for a start. Fed up getting pinched Sad redesign of the roundabouts is good as well.

@MunicipleWaste - granted improvements in brakes is a good thing. But, the improvements in car brakes do not appear to be protecting cyclists. So, all the more for urban 20mph

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posted by giff77 [1040 posts]
30th November 2011 - 18:39

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I actually got done for speeding recently - a speed camera in Cumbria on an A road caught me doing 68 in a 60. It was my first ever threat of points in 28 years of clean driving so I opted for the speed awareness course instead.

Some had been there before, some were even fellow cyclists but what was most interesting was that out of 32 people attending 28 of us were caught by cameras in urban and suburban roads exceeding the 30 mph limit.

Other nuggets from the lesson were that over 50% of speeding offences are within 3 miles of home. I live in a very quiet area nowhere near a main road so it's all local residents and the occasional builders van doing the speeding.

The other nugget was the major different in survival rates when being hit at 30mph and 35mph. It's 80% survival for 30mph and just 50% for 35mph. Something to do with the momentum at 35mph taking you the extra foot over the car roof and onto the road head first.

I would like all B roads and country roads to be dropped from 60mph to 50mph - for the sake of walkers horse riders and cyclists. If we can meet motorists half way by agreeing as part of the highway code to single out as soon as possible then we'll both benefit.

As a club rider we're having a little battle with some motorists at present over riding 2 abreast. As you know the highway code allows this on "quiet roads". Since quiet roads no longer exist in the UK - at anytime of the day or night it seems - I would rather have it re written that we single out than lose the freedom of being able to chat to someone as you ride.

20mph cannot come fast enough for me and other residents - and as I said - I live in a very quiet neighbourhood! I imagine parts of the SE have now reached Mad Max level...

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

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
30th November 2011 - 19:10

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Slowing large pieces of machinery down is a no brainer, of course that would save a few cyclists. Err but since there are about 30 million of these heavy machines, the cost to the economy would kill more but that is conveniently omitted from the sums isn't it!

When will people work out that exposed humans among heavy fast moving machinery operated by some pretty ordinary folk is er.................very dangerous. So much so that if it were private it would all be banned under elf.n.safety. So cycling is...........er pretty dangerous and this is born out by the fact that the rise in fatals this year is all accounted for by......cyclists. Of course everyone has a right to put themselves amongst this heavy plant and die I suppose! Fault and blame is not the issue here. When you have abandoned your family to knock on St Peter's Gates he will say 'come in my son it was all the driver's fault' and that will make you very happy.

But before you go apoplectic with me for stating the obvious, let me say 'I am stating the obvious'. Thank God only a tiny minority cycle seriously and even they have to give up and turn to the.............car eventually.

posted by Driver Protest Union [17 posts]
30th November 2011 - 19:59

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Take the actual driving of cars away from people. Have every vehicle be operated by a computer or on a track. People can't be trusted to be conscientious--it's always "Me first" because "I am in a bigger hurry than you and what I'm doing is more important than what you are doing." Think of it could possibly get rid of the car insurance thieves and traffic jams & accidents could become things of the past!! Big Grin

Pepita rides again!

posted by pepita1 [175 posts]
30th November 2011 - 20:08

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Driver Protest Union wrote:
Slowing large pieces of machinery down is a no brainer, of course that would save a few cyclists. Err but since there are about 30 million of these heavy machines, the cost to the economy would kill more but that is conveniently omitted from the sums isn't it!

Utter bollocks. As is the rest of your trolling post. You are not "stating the obvious" but merely putting forward a point of view that does nothing to help reduce the deaths and injuries on the roads with no evidence to back it up.

You also FAIL to realise that most cyclists are also drivers and are very much aware of experience in the driver's seat. Unlike too many ignorant, selfish motorists, they can manage to drive safely and considerately around other cyclists without knocking them off their bikes.

Considerate driving doesn't just benefit cyclists, but everyone on the road. You deliberately ignore the number of car occupants killed each year - it's a big one. I bet they didn't want to meet St. Peter quite so soon either! And what about the cost to the economy of the deaths and injuries that you consider an acceptable 'occupational hazard'? Get back under that bridge.

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posted by Simon E [1919 posts]
30th November 2011 - 20:19

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Whilst changing the driving test to include awareness of cyclists would have an effect, it will take many years to achieve critical mass. We have to remember that many road users in some parts of the country passed their test in another country -e.g. drivers of LHD HGVs and recent migrants from the EU.

I'm not surprised that the review of evidence doesn't show that segregation has been beneficial in the UK - the piecemeal implementation of cycle lanes and low modal share make for very thin evidence.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
30th November 2011 - 20:36

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Driver attitude is the major problem everywhere ! Consider the fact that I am pedalling at 35kph in a 30kph zone and can’t go faster as the car & trailer in front of me are limiting my speed , so for safety I am about 5m behind drafting and a car comes up alongside me on this narrow winding lane . Of course I ease the pace and the next car barrels into this gap for about 50m then takes a right hand turn with the other car . Followed both up ther driveway to their houses . First of the cars was slowest getting out so approached him and asked for an explanation . Attitude was F…Off , you are on private property , went next door and the young woman admitted she thought it safe since the other car had passed me .

Apologised that she didn’t see me in time and was very concerned that I planned to call the Polizei since she hadn’t meant any harm as she was hurrying to get to the family lunch . Lost for words when I reminded her that in hitting me she would have not reached her lunch let alone been able to eat when the ambulance or mortuary vehicle departed .

Would the Polizei do anything ? No injury , no interest !

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [378 posts]
30th November 2011 - 21:37

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cat1commuter wrote:
A lot of junctions and roundabouts are designed with a large turn radius so that motorists can maintain a high speed through them. Simple to design them otherwise.

Swept corners need to be phased-out. Roads meeting roundabouts need to be radial, with sharp corners, roads and junctions need to be engineered to force traffic to stop and prevent excess speed being carried-through. That way drivers have more time for proper observations. Altogether much safer.

The Dutch have sorted all of this out.
Large vehicles need to be kept out of towns.

posted by Recumbenteer [142 posts]
30th November 2011 - 21:52

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@DPU - how on earth is slowing traffic down going to cost the economy and kill more people?? As stated on this thread and in studies, a slower moving vehicle causes less damage in a collision and there is less risk of fatalities.

Our roads are dangerous simply because of poor driving techniques and standards. Drivers have an unhealthy disregard for other road users be they biped, quadraped, two wheels, four wheels whatever. Until this changes it makes little difference what the government does. But slowing traffic down will be a start.

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posted by giff77 [1040 posts]
30th November 2011 - 22:30

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Driver Protest Union wrote:
Slowing large pieces of machinery down is a no brainer, of course that would save a few cyclists. Err but since there are about 30 million of these heavy machines, the cost to the economy would kill more but that is conveniently omitted from the sums isn't it!

When will people work out that exposed humans among heavy fast moving machinery operated by some pretty ordinary folk is er.................very dangerous. So much so that if it were private it would all be banned under elf.n.safety. So cycling is...........er pretty dangerous and this is born out by the fact that the rise in fatals this year is all accounted for by......cyclists. Of course everyone has a right to put themselves amongst this heavy plant and die I suppose! Fault and blame is not the issue here. When you have abandoned your family to knock on St Peter's Gates he will say 'come in my son it was all the driver's fault' and that will make you very happy.

But before you go apoplectic with me for stating the obvious, let me say 'I am stating the obvious'. Thank God only a tiny minority cycle seriously and even they have to give up and turn to the.............car eventually.

This person also seems unaware of the fact that having more cyclists using bicycles for short journeys and commuting will result in less congestion so that he can drive without having to wait in a queue of other lemmings in his tin box. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by a factor of 20.

I've had a car licence for 30 years and a motorcycle licence for 25 years and have owned and driven cars and motorcycles as well in all that time - still have a car and a motorbike, but I've no intentions of stopping cycling. The person who made the post is a bit of a dimwit.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
30th November 2011 - 22:32

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I cycle through the town of sandwich in kent, which is one big 20mph zone now. On balance, I like it (not meaning to brag but I am normally exceeding the limit myself!)

One day however, doing a constant 22mph away from the toll bridge and all the way back round the one way system, on stopping at junction, a red pick-up driven by a "higher" primate (lets call him "Clyde"), pulled up next to me and said "oi why don't you pull over and let me past instead of slowing us all down"

silence and disdain from me needless to say!

posted by wyadvd [116 posts]
30th November 2011 - 22:41

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and i'd been right behind another car all the way too!

posted by wyadvd [116 posts]
30th November 2011 - 22:44

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robbieC wrote:
one way to start enforcing ASL and cycling rules is to target drivers that Tfl have a direct influence over - bus drivers and taxi drivers. It is usually these people that you come into conflict with in London (and I guess oop north too)the public carriage office and the PSV people have the tools. I also think that light goods vehicle drivers should be more regulated.

I have complained to tfl on numerous occasions about one particular junction on my commute at which ASLs are regularly occupied by buses. Not only have the results been negligible but it is clear from the downright rudeness of bus drivers to whom you point out the legalities of parking their huge vehicles in ASLs that they fear no punitive action as the result of any complaint. Ditto the Public Carriage Office and PSV people.

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posted by TiNuts [93 posts]
1st December 2011 - 8:20

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On bus drivers etc I suspect the reason they aren't bovvered is thatthe plod just don't act on the complaints. You should complain to the bus company instead.

Driving a bus has become a fairly insecure and low-paid job, and the drivers are subjected to a lot of bullying and pressure from their deregulated employers. I suspect being the subject of complaints from a member of the public could be a fairly unpleasant experience for them back at the depot. In a way I feel sympathy for them and a better way of impressing on them would be to engage them in conversation to explain the problem. Sadly that won't work in practice because the same pressure to keep to schedule etc forces them to move off as soon as the light goes green.

On ASLs generally, it seems to me most cyclists are unaware of their purpose. Certainly they all bunch up in the lead-in so that access to the ASL gets blocked - they don't realise perhaps that they are quite entitled to spread out across the box. Right now, that would make a huge difference on Blackfriars Junction - the roadworks have swallowed up the cycle lane and if you are not in front of the traffic you will get trapped behind it, going nowhere because congestion has brought it to a standstill.

posted by Paul M [306 posts]
1st December 2011 - 12:27

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@Paul M

My father-in-law was a bus driver till fairly recently and I can confirm what you are saying about the pressure the drivers are under: both to keep to time-tables but also to avoid incidents

I saw a comment on another article regarding HGVs from a professional driver bemoaning the long hours and considerable pressure they work under too.

My opinion - tough!
I work in an investment bank (yeah, I know *Boo* *Hiss*) - but there's nothing you can tell me a bout pressure at work to deliver.
None of that excuses carelessness and risk-taking however. The main difference in my business of course is that if you screw up, some money is lost and your own firm crucify you in the courts - as a professional driver someone could be in the hospital and you get a slap on the wrist then back in the cab!

posted by mad_scot_rider [538 posts]
1st December 2011 - 13:38

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I've found ASLs to be pretty useful. There are plenty of them in Cambridge and most of the time they are free and a lot of cyclists use them. It's much better than sitting next to a car that's signalling left and you're not sure if they'll let you go first or not.

@Rob Bennington
The reference to the stats on hospital admissions was instructive. The main ones on cyclists for those not bothered to look at the link are:

V10 Pedal cyclist injured in collision with pedestrian or animal 106 105
V11 Pedal cyclist injured in collision with other pedal cycle 350 344
V12 Pedal cyclist injured in coll'n with 2-3 wheeled motor vegicle 65 65
V13 Pedal cyclist injured in coll'n with car pick-up truck or van 2,297 2,258
V14 Pedal cyclist injured in coll'n with heavy transport vehicle or bus 150 144
V15 Pedal cyclist injured in coll'n with railway train or railway vehicle 1 1
V16 Pedal cyclist injured in collision with other nonmotor vehicle 15 15
V17 Pedal cyclist injured in coll'n with fixed/stationary object 681 674
V18 Pedal cyclist injured in noncollision transport accident 11,244 11,131
V19 Pedal cyclist injured in oth and unspc transport accident 1,331 1,305

The first column is finished consultant episodes and the second is admissions.

As was pointed out the majority of accidents don't involve collisions. Nearly 5 times as many accidents are noncollisions compared to collisions with any type of vehicle. There are twice as many accidents with other cyclists as with lorries or buses. Although an accident with a lorry or bus is more likely to be fatal they're not the only way you can get hurt or killed. I imagine a lot of those noncollisions are due to frost/ice, potholes, going too fast downhill (I like it as well but it is a big risk - the only major accident I've ever had in 40+ years of cycling was caused by this when I was 15) and bad/stupid cycling.

When I'm going to work through central Cambridge the main thing that worries me is pedestrians who don't look where they're going and other cyclists, with buses next and cars last - there are no lorries fortunately.

There is an idea to reduce all of Cambridge to 20mph and maybe this would help, although a lot of the time the traffic is slower than that in any case. Enforcing it on every side street though is basically impossible.

If we want to keep safe we have to look, look and look again. Something, in my opinion, the majority of cyclists around me don't do. The same applies to car and other drivers of course. Attention to the road is the key to safety beyond anything else.

posted by Alan Tullett [1434 posts]
1st December 2011 - 16:38

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Intersting article in Sussex on the reduction of speed limits.

Motorists travelled faster along a road after the speed limit was reduced, a traffic survey has found.

In one Sussex village drivers travelled at an average speed of 33.5mph when the legal speed limit was 40mph.

But when the limit was dropped to 30mph they increased their average speed to 42.5mph – an increase of 20%.

This took place in Town Row, near Crowborough.

A similar situation occurred along the main C7 road connecting Kingston and Newhaven.

The average speed drivers travelled along this road was 41.2mph when the speed limit was 60mph.

But when it decreased to 50mph the average speed vehicles travelled at increased to 48.1mph.

In Dane Hill, near Haywards Heath, drivers travelled at an average speed of 38.7mph when the speed limit was 40mph. But when it decreased to 30mph the average speed vehicles travelled at increased to 39.2mph.

The situation emerged following an East Sussex County Council-organised traffic consultation, ahead of planned roadworks.

The survey found that in areas where there were engineering measures notifying drivers of speed limits, motorists were more likely to stick to the designated speed.

In areas where there were just road signs and markings, the situation was not so clear cut.

The report said: “Figures indicate that the use of engineering measures is more effective in achieving speed reductions.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman: “Average speeds have reduced at the majority of rural sites where monitoring has taken place.

“Reductions were recorded at all of the sites where there were changes to the road layout and at five of the eight sites where only signs and lines were introduced.”

Areas where speed limit changes are planned in 2012/2013 include the A259 at Eastbourne (50mph to 40mph), A275 South Chailey (extending the 40mph limit) and the A2770 at Eastbourne (40mph to 30mph).

I use the C7 regularly but will only cycle on it early Saturday or Sunday mornings when there is little traffic. I thought the drop to 50mph was a good thing until I read everyone is going faster.

posted by baggies2354 [16 posts]
2nd December 2011 - 8:51

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