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

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.

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.