Injury rate for postmen on bikes increases as bike fleet reduced

Health and safety concerns led to postal bikes being phased out

by Sarah Barth   September 15, 2012  

Royal Mail bike postman

A move by Royal Mail to cut back on injuries by taking postmen off bicycles has backfired.

In 2010 bosses decided to phase out cycling posties in the hope that the injury rate would decrease.

But despite cutting its Scottish bicycle fleet from 526 in 2010 to 401 in 2011 the number of accidents on bikes has actually increased slightly, from nine to 10. A freedom of information request also revealed that there had been a total of 53 recorded accidents involving postal workers on bicycles since 2008.

John Lauder, national director for Sustrans Scotland, told Deadline News: “I’m baffled as to why the Royal Mail would stop postal workers from using bicycles.

“That’s certainly not a high number of accidents and in terms of the health of postal workers it would be much better for them to be out on bicycles, getting exercise and fresh air. The Royal Mail is doing its employees a huge disservice by failing to give them every opportunity for exercise.

“Using bicycles would also help Royal Mail reduce congestion and improve its carbon footprint. I cannot understand why they would chose to burn more petrol when they should be looking at ways to cut money.

“They should really be increasing their numbers of bicycles not cutting them down.”

In 2010 the recorded injuries included a bruised shoulder, bruised rib and a cut knee. Postal workers in other vehicles suffered 239 accidents.

Some postal workers, along with the CTC, called for cargo tricyles instead of vans to deliver letters and parcels, which are on the increase with more people internet shopping, but these suggestions were rejected by the Royal Mail.

A spokeswoman for Royal Mail said: “The ultimate aim would be to stop all accidents on bicycles altogether.

“Developments such as the increase in online shopping have changed type of mail we typically handle, with larger and heavier packets often needing to be delivered. We have been progressively replacing bicycles and mailbags with trolleys and vans in order to deal with mail more effectively.

“There has therefore been a reduction in the number of bicycles in use in Scotland. This move, which has been supported by the union, has in addition helped to reduce the risk of injury to postal workers from carrying heavier mailbags and cycling accidents.”

There are a number of likely scenarios that explain the rise in accident rates. 2011 was the first year in which the bicycle fleet was reduced - however the cut in the number of bicycles may not have been matched a by similar cut in workload leading to more miles being travelled by fewer bicycles - thus while the total accident rate may have increased the accident per mile rate may not have. Equally it could be that fewer bicycles were carrying heavier loads.

Without knowing the total number of miles travelled by the Royal Mail bicycle fleet in Scotland it is hard to come to a conclusion about the safety or otherwise of delivering letters and parcels by bike, but given the size of the fleet and the relatively small number of accidents - and their seeming lack of severity - it is probably fair to assume that it is one of the less risky methods of mail delivery open to Scottish postal workers. Certainly eliminating the chances of having an accident while delivering the mail by bicycle by eliminating the bicycle fleet is unlikely to make the process of delivering the mail either healthier or safer.

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"PostMEN"? Shame on you.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
15th September 2012 - 12:22


seen a couple of firms delivering mail by cycle in London. Almost been mown down by postie in van - is the royal mail collecting these stats?


robbieC's picture

posted by robbieC [62 posts]
15th September 2012 - 12:24


The Rumpo Kid wrote:
"PostMEN"? Shame on you.

Yeah, Sarah's unreconstructed

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
15th September 2012 - 14:02


It wasn't a joke.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
15th September 2012 - 15:29


I still miss my post bike. Even though the stand had snapped off and only had one gear that worked. (The best bikes were always gone when I got there).

posted by Nezzer [3 posts]
15th September 2012 - 16:22


Wow, that is almost no accidents at all! Health and safety argument is bunk.

Current post bikes are pretty crap. They could have invested in some decent cargo bikes.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1448 posts]
15th September 2012 - 16:27


I find it amusing that the PO is dropping bikes on grounds of health and safety.

Instead of posties running a very small risk of being knocked down by cars when working, they now have the near-certainty of being forced to be van-driving lardballs and dying of obesity and inactivity.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
15th September 2012 - 16:51


The Rumpo Kid wrote:
It wasn't a joke.

Didn't think it was

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
15th September 2012 - 19:47

1 Like

Sorry. I thought your flippant dismissal was because you thought I was making some sort of "David Brentism" for comic effect.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
15th September 2012 - 20:15

1 Like

My very nice and cool postman, does a 20 minute and a little bit ten!

posted by nabobofthrob [4 posts]
15th September 2012 - 21:46


I would've thought a change in the number of accidents from 9 to 10 was most likely down to natural variation! Haven't we been here before?

thegibdog's picture

posted by thegibdog [100 posts]
16th September 2012 - 19:26

1 Like

In February, I wrote to my MP about my concerns regarding Royal Mail reducing the use of bicycles in favour of increasing van use. He had the CEO Moya Greene answer my queries....she wrote:

- "we are now delivering more packages, but fewer letters"
- "we are currently investing £2 billion to modernise our business"
- "the capacity of cycles is limited"
- "time is lost doubling back to the re-supply points"
- in 2010-11 there were 576 bike related incidents accounting for 2,748 lost working days

- "Changing delivery methods will reduce accident rages, incident severity and musculoskeletal related sick absence"
- "we investigated and trialled the use of a range of manual and powered cycles, tricycles and trailers"
- "...but for a variety of reasons these were found to be unsatisfactory"
- issues: range, hill-climbing, consistency, frame and component failures, risk of theft when "paused" at an address

Then to their cars/vans:
- "our postmen and women will not be driving their van continuously"
- "[they] will park and leave the locked van to deliver to several streets using small collapsible trolleys"

She finishes with, "we are not removing [cycles] altogether and many low volume village/rural routes will use bicycles".

I would love to find out the injuries and sick days lost due to issues with vans! Historical info would be needed so we can see if there is a statistically significant effect due to a switch to vans from bicycles for delivery.


AndrewRH's picture

posted by AndrewRH [56 posts]
17th September 2012 - 14:33

1 Like

I have to say, where I cycle the red royal mail van drivers are regularly awful. I have to take evasive action all too often to avoid being hit by them, have had them cut me off or pull out without looking, they park in places that stop other traffic from seeing me or block the road at busy times, often when it is avoidable. Frankly I see one and I get out of it's way as quickly as I can.

I would much rather these guys were on bikes, for the health and safety of the community they serve as well as their own.

sparrow_h's picture

posted by sparrow_h [35 posts]
18th September 2012 - 14:59

1 Like