DfT statistics show alarming rise in number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads

Number of casualties across all classes of road users continues to fall with only cyclists seeing an increase

by Simon_MacMichael   February 2, 2012  

DfT reported road casualties (indexed), Q3 2002 - Q32011

On a day when cycle safety is in the spotlight, the latest quarterly road casualty statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that while total cyclist casualties from June to September 2011 were virtually unchanged from 12 months earlier, there was an alarming 7 per cent rise in the number of bike riders killed or seriously injured.

Overall road casualties in the period continue to show a strong downward trend, falling by 5 per cent compared to the equivalent quarter in 2010, but not when it comes to cyclists, who again are the only class of road users among whom there has not been a reduction.

During the quarter, there were 5,470 cyclist casualties, just four higher than in the comparable months of 2010. That figure includes slight injuries, but it is the 7 per cent increase in the numbers killed or seriously injured during the three-month period that gives most cause for concern.

Looking at the year-on-year picture, in the 12 months to September 2011, total cyclist casualties rose 4 per cent, with an increase in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured, which was up by 8 per cent.

With the snowfalls experienced across Britain in late 2010 preventing many from taking to their bikes, but milder weather towards the end of 2011, the final quarter’s figures for the year could also show an increase when they are published.

As the chart above shows, while indexed casualty numbers for all road users other than cyclists are falling, the reverse isn’t the case for bike riders, and the gap is widening.

While increased numbers of people cycling may partly explain the rise, the absence of up-to-date statistics on cycle usage and difficulty of establishing precise trends at national level makes it impossible to say with any certainty, and there does seem to be a general perception that the roads are becoming more dangerous for cyclists.

Reacting to the latest figures, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the road safety charity IAM, said: “It is extremely concerning that cyclists’ casualties are not reducing and this is something the government and local councils must act must act on.  This will mean changes to road layouts, more cycle training and promoting better awareness among drivers.”

11 user comments

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These figures would be more useful if they were compared to the numbers of cyclists on the road. For example, has London seen a huge % increase in cycling in recent years, but with a smaller % increase in injuries?

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
2nd February 2012 - 16:22

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Read this bit John:

While increased numbers of people cycling may partly explain the rise, the absence of up-to-date statistics on cycle usage and difficulty of establishing precise trends at national level makes it impossible to say with any certainty, and there does seem to be a general perception that the roads are becoming more dangerous for cyclists.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
2nd February 2012 - 17:23

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OldRidgeback, the paragraph you quote makes John's point perfectly. It admits that it's hard to draw any conclusions from the figures before talking about an increase in perceived danger for cyclists.

There is a massive difference between roads actually becoming more dangerous for cyclists and them apparently being perceived to be more dangerous. If the increase in cycling is greater than the increase in casualties then the roads aren't becoming more dangerous for cyclists at all.

Making any inference about how dangerous the roads are for cyclists from these figures, which are only part of the story, is wrong. And that's before you consider that the increase of four cycling casualties is from a comparison of actual figures to estimates rounded off to the nearest 10. The "alarming" 7% variation between the two quarters is also based on estimates.

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posted by thegibdog [62 posts]
2nd February 2012 - 21:24

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BBC breakfast are about to cover this story... Stay tuned.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [694 posts]
3rd February 2012 - 7:49

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missed it - may check it out on iPlayer at lunchtime.

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posted by joemmo [694 posts]
3rd February 2012 - 11:31

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A rise in the number of cycling casualties was reported sometime before but I'm not really sure we can read too much into these quarterly figures. Citing an 8% rise in fatalities sounds a lot but when the annual death toll among cyclists is barely above 100 then a single death can look like a trend.

That's not to say that any increase in KSI should be ignored, far from it! If it prompts people into appropriate action (by which I mean a change in attitude among drivers, tougher penalties and more driving bans) then it won't be entirely in vain. However, if it means the DfT trots out more utter crap like their criminally awful Be Safe Be Seen campaign then I'd prefer it if they didn't bother.

Previous stories:
http://road.cc/12065 - cyclists not to blame in 93 per cent of cases, December 2009
http://road.cc/19311 - serious injuries down but minor injuries up, June 2010
http://road.cc/20977 - travel stats indicate cycling boom, July 2010
http://road.cc/30654 - CTC says cycling may be getting safer despite rise in stats
http://road.cc/35917 - Cycling deaths down, May 2011
http://road.cc/38100 - Cycling much safer than two decades ago, June 2011
http://road.cc/48413 - Slowing motorists down best way to increase safety for cyclists
(easily found thanks to road.cc tags)

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posted by Simon E [1779 posts]
3rd February 2012 - 12:09

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Thgibdog - that's why I posted it. The piece itself says it's hard to draw conclusions because the data is questionable.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
3rd February 2012 - 16:43

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Unfortunately the piece also uses the word "alarming" in it's title.

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posted by thegibdog [62 posts]
4th February 2012 - 0:21

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I'd say that from a cyclist's point of view, an 8 per cent rise in the number of people killed or seriously injured while on their bikes is 'alarming,' irrespective of any other factors.

The article goes on to say it's hard to draw conclusions from the data, but I'll stand by the headline.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7492 posts]
4th February 2012 - 0:45

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Sorry Simon but without the full picture I don't think using headlines calling this alarming is helpful. Yes, the 2011 quarter 3 figure is higher than the 2010 Q3 figure. What we don't know from looking only at these figures is whether that is part of an ongoing upwards trend or within the bounds of natural variation in the data. And that is before taking any increase in cycling levels into account.

Looking at the quarterly figures for all reported cycling casualties for recent years (I couldn't find the quarterly figures for KSIs) would show "alarming" rises in 9 quarters and presumably "reassuring" drops in four quarters. It is the overall trend that is important.

If the trend in cycling casualties is outstripping the growth in cycling levels then I would agree that it is alarming. If it's the other way around then, whilst every cyclist killed or seriously injured is a tragedy, it would suggest that cycling is actually getting safer. Either way we need to work to make the roads a safer place for everyone.

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posted by thegibdog [62 posts]
4th February 2012 - 11:10

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I think that "alarming" is a good word to use. The times we live in are auspicious for very large increases in cycling. But if infrastructure changes do not move ahead much more quickly and more deaths are being reported the benefits of further radical growth will also die. I don't think that the obvious point about more cyclists per death is a vote winner. Any deaths at all are unwelcome and we have the means and the knowledge to start reducing them right now, even as cycling continues to grow.

The target should be zero deaths, not a better deaths per 100,000 miles ratio.

posted by Sam Saunders [18 posts]
5th February 2012 - 15:00

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