Figures released today by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that the number of cyclists reported as being seriously injured on Britain’s roads last year rose by 16 per cent during 2011, a year in which the DfT says that cycle traffic increased by just 2.2 per cent. During the year, some 107 cyclists lost their lives, a 4 per cent decrease on the 111 recorded the previous year. The number of total reported cyclist casualties, including slight injuries, rose by 12 per cent compared to 2010. The figures have seen the government coming under criticism for failing to make road safety a priority.
While the number of deaths of cyclists recorded during 2011 was almost a fifth down on the 2005-09 average, the number of reported serious injuries among bike riders has risen in each of the past five years and now stands at nearly a third higher than the average for 2005-09, and while national cyclists' organisation CTC says there has been an increase in the levels of cycling during that period, there has been no improvement in the risk of injury.
Cycling reported road casualties, 2005-09 to 2011 % change % change 2005-09 over avge on average 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2005-09 2010 Killed 130 136 115 104 111 107 -18 -4 Serious* 2,398 2,428 2,450 2,606 2,660 3,085 29 16 KSI 2,528 2,564 2,565 2,710 2,771 3,192 26 15 Slight** 13,934 13,631 13,732 14,354 14,414 16,023 15 11 All 16,463 16,195 16,297 17,064 17,185 19,215 17 12 * Seriously injured ** Slightly injured Source: DfT, Reported Road Casualties Great Britain, main results 2011
Among all road users, the number of people killed increased by 3 per cent in 2011, and reported serious injuries were 2 per cent up on 2010 - both measures registering their first increase since, respectively, 2003 and 1994, and CTC argues that "cuts to traffic policing and signals from the Government that road safety isn't a priority may be partly to blame."
CTC’s Campaigns Director, Roger Geffen, commented: “After its previous unhelpful rhetoric about “ending the war on the motorist”, suggesting that road safety wasn’t a priority, Government now needs to reassert the importance of creating safe and attractive cycling conditions, promoting safe driving and tackling the threats posed by lorries. Creating safe conditions for existing and would-be cyclists is important not just for our health and the environment, but for the safety of other road users too.
He continued: "Britain’s cycle safety record is falling even further behind other north European countries which have far higher levels of cycle use. We still have only a tiny fraction of our residential streets covered by 20 mph schemes, while hostile roads, bad driving, and weak law enforcement remain serious barriers to getting more people cycling.”
Martin Gibbs, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at British Cycling, added: “If we compare these recently released figures to the situation in 1994, that’s a 40% reduction in the number of people killed while cycling, and cycling participation figures have increased. But we can and must do better so that cycling is as safe as it possibly can be.
"That is why we are calling on the government to embed cycling in all road policy decisions so that we create a safe cycle-friendly environment. The Department for Transport needs to make cycling central to their transport strategy.”
Simon Best, chief executive of the road safety charity IAM, said: “It is unacceptable that road deaths and serious injuries rose last year, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who saw the greatest rises. Road accidents usually drop during an economic recession, so this rise after continuous reductions over the last ten years, is particularly concerning.
“Ministers should take this as a serious warning. Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets, and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this government,” he added.
According to The Times newspaper, which has been recording cyclist fatalities during 2012 as part of its Cities fit for Cycling campaign, so far this year 42 cyclists have lost their lives in Great Britain.
Cycling levels - and casualties - are higher during the summer months, while another factor that makes year-on-year comparisons difficult is that it is impossible to tell what the impact is of the poor weather we have been experiencing, which is likely to have deterred many people from cycling.
Anecdotal evidence from regular cycle commuters in London, for example, is that sunny weather brings many more cyclists out onto the streets to commute.
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.