DfT Statistics: Number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in Britain up 8 per cent in year to September 2012

Campaigners say government needs to do more to protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians

by Simon_MacMichael   February 7, 2013  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads rose by 8 per cent in the year to 30 September 2012 compared to the previous 12 months, new figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal. Road safety campaigners have immediately called for the government to do more to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Figures for pedestrians and motorcyclists also rose during the period, up by 6 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. While total road fatalities among all users fell 7 per cent, serious injuries were up 2 per cent during the period.

According to the DfT, the rise in the number of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists killed or seriously injured in “is largely due to substantial increases in reported accidents for all three vulnerable road user groups in 2011 Q4 and 2012 Q1, relative to 2010 Q4 and 2011 Q1, resulting in an overall increase across the rolling year.”

Comparing July-September 2012 with the same three months a year earlier, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured rose by 6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.

Variable factors such as an increase in levels of cycling over recent years as well as the effect of the weather from year to year - winter 2010/11 was particularly harsh and will have deterred many from riding bikes then - mean that patterns in cycling casualties are difficult to assess in terms of answering the question of whether riding a bike is becoming more or less dangerous, particularly since actual usage statistics are notoriously difficult to capture.

Commenting on the figures, Jason Torrance, policy director at Sustrans which in recent weeks has been giving evidence to the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary inquiry, said: “The government must act now to put an end to the increasing number of pedestrian and cyclist casualties on our roads.

"As MPs investigate how to get more people out on their bikes, these figures show just how far we have to go. Leadership, investment and big changes in our schools, workplaces and communities are urgently needed to make cycling and walking safer and to build a healthier, cleaner UK.

“Safe cycling routes and lower speed limits could help prevent the increasing number of injuries and tragic deaths on our roads.”

Year on year figures among all road users were described as “roughly similar,” although the number of motorcyclists killed or seriously injured dropped by 2 per cent and car occupants fell by 5 per cent. The DfT said that may be due to lower levels of vehicle miles, which provisional estimates show were 0.9 per cent down for the period.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the road safety charity IAM, said: “It is reassuring to see an overall drop in the number of road casualties, however this should not mask the increase of deaths and serious injuries for cyclists and pedestrians.

“The rise in the number of fatal and serious accidents on minor and built-up roads is concerning. The government needs to think about which roads are the safest and where they should be dedicating their resources.”

IAM is calling for:

• Changes to the driving test to make drivers much more aware of cyclists and pedestrians

• Improved infrastructure for cyclists, including more segregated cycle paths

• The government commit to reinstate funding for road safety campaigns and education.

8 user comments

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At the risk of remounting a favourite hobby horse...

“Safe cycling routes and lower speed limits could help prevent the increasing number of injuries and tragic deaths on our roads.” Yes, they could. But "safe cycling routes" shouldn't mean 'segregated lanes to keep out of the way'. It should mean 'roads are safe to use for cyclists as well as cars' - and that means fixing potholes, designing junctions properly, etc.

And as for changes to the driving test? Well, great. But everyone on the road today has passed the test as it was. There's no obligation to retake (unless you get disqualified) - even at 70, you just apply for a renewal and there's no test. Unless you implement periodic re-testing (and I'd support the introduction of a theory test every ten years), it's essentially pointless.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1221 posts]
7th February 2013 - 15:05


Agreed. Like so many other systems under review right now: banks, hospitals, news gathering, there will have to be a pretty fundamental change of attitude as to who has right of way on our roads - or the government has to introduce and back the courts with very draconian penalties for accidents involving cars with pedestrians and bicycles.

I've always favoured a re-assessment of 'dangerous' versus 'careless' driving as the latter to me is the same as the former and should be met with automatic loss of licence for 2 years.

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

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1188 posts]
7th February 2013 - 16:41


Idea for a drinking game - drink whenever a supposedly reasonable organization tries to spin something like this as a positive. (CTC I'm looking to you).

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [600 posts]
7th February 2013 - 17:53


The more these dangers are publicised throughout the Media. Making people aware. Then maybe? we'll see safer practices by all road users...

posted by Mostyn [425 posts]
8th February 2013 - 12:27


From today's CTC "cycleclips" newsletter:

"Media reports suggest the Wiggins effect could be responsible for an increase in cycle casualties. However, CTC believes that if cycling has increased by more than 8%, it would suggest that cycling has actually become safer."

Take a drink.

Is it as depressing to everyone else, that they are so predictable?

(Also, does this mean CTC believes that if rates of cycling increase, injuries (absolute figures) must increase also? Personally I'd rather see cycling rise 1000%, and numbers of injuries fall over the same period. Or am I some kind of dreamer?).

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [600 posts]
8th February 2013 - 18:03


So it's Wiggo's fault then? Have Churchill tried to sue him?

I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

posted by Carl [136 posts]
8th February 2013 - 18:59


Like your thoughts on these issues, totally concur

for me - The ride is about adventure, camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment that comes after a long day in the saddle.

Mountain-Nic's picture

posted by Mountain-Nic [119 posts]
8th February 2013 - 20:57


To PJ McNally:

Rest assured that CTC isn't "spinning" this news as a positive. We're merely pointing out that, contrary to what the Daily Mail is saying, it isn't necessarily a negative (I hope that makes sense!)

This week's stats merely tell us is that the number of cyclists killed and seriously injured (KSI) in Britain was 8% higher in the year to September 2012 than in the preceding year. What they don't tell us is whether cycle use increased by more or less than 8% in that time. So we don't know whether cycling has become more dangerous (as the tabloids are suggesting) or whether the opposite is true.

Now, of course we'd rather cyclist casualties were going down in absolute terms. And CTC absolutely does not believe that "if rates of cycling increase, injuries (absolute figures) must increase also". On the contrary, we have repeatedly pointed to plenty examples of the opposite happening, both in the UK and abroad, where cycle use has increased significantly and cyclist casualties have gone down in absolute terms. Please see CTC's road safety campaigns briefing.

So you certainly aren't a dreamer for wanting that to happen. CTC does too!

We also know that it can happen when politicians and planners take action to address the actual and perceived threats to cycling: high traffic volumes and speeds, bad driving, dangerous roads and junctions, lorries.

We are at last getting a serious hearing from politicians in Westminster. We have a hell of a long way to go, and progress to date has been glacial. Yet despite this I am more optimistic now about the political prospects for cycling than I have been for at least 15 years.

By contrast, the Daily Mail is not helping our cause in the slightest. Its emotive "dangerising" headlines are far more likely to scare people into not cycling. The Mail would probably prefer cycling to remain as a marginal activity for a battle-hardened minority, who they can then scapegoat. That's absolutely not what we need to persuade politians to take action to get more and safer cycling.

Finally, if your MP hasn't yet signed the parliamentary Early Day Motion to "Get Britain Cycling", please urge them to do so. You can do that automatically via this webpage.

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director
CTC, the national cycling charity

posted by Roger Geffen [50 posts]
8th February 2013 - 21:14