The City of Westminster has revealed that more than two thirds of collisions between motor vehicles and cyclists within its boundaries in the past year that resulted in injury to the rider were due to some factor associated with the driver, compared to one in five cases where the cause was attributed to the rider. It has also disclosed that in three in five incidents involving a cyclist and a pedestrian, it’s the latter to whom responsibility is apportioned.
The data have been revealed in an analysis of road casualty data contained in the London borough’s draft Cycling Plan for 2013-2026, published earlier this week, in which it sets out its vision “to make Westminster a national leader in cycling provision, making it safer and more attractive for a greater number of people, from all backgrounds, to cycle more frequently.”
According to the council, in 68 per cent of road traffic incidents over the past 12 months tin which a cyclist was injured and a motor vehicle involved and for which detailed information, apparently gathered from police STATS19 report forms, is available, the driver was deemed to be at fault.
That compares with 20 per cent where the cyclist was deemed to be responsible, with both parties – or neither, with the cause unknown – cited as being to blame in the remaining 12 per cent of cases.
The principal reasons in cases where the driver was deemed to be responsible were:
21 per cent – driver failing to look properly
13 per cent – driver being careless/reckless or in a hurry
10 per cent – driver failing to judge the cyclist’s path or speed and
10 per cent – driver passing too close to the cyclist.
The council says that “Whilst some accidents may be prevented through improved junction and road design, it must be recognised that accidents are primarily caused by the way that cyclists and other road users interact, and many could be avoided by improved road user conduct and caution.
“This is an important point given the limited road space and competing demands which mean that the ability to physically segregate cyclists on the majority of Westminster’s roads is likely to be limited.”
The City of Westminster also analysed 133 incidents in which cyclists were involved in a collision with a pedestrian, an emotive issue, as a scan of comments to any article about cycling on a local newspaper website demonstrates.
However, the data reveal that in 60 per cent of those incidents, the cause was attributed to some action on the pedestrian’s part, including:
28 per cent – the pedestrian were the pedestrian failing to look properly and
16 per cent – the pedestrian failing to judge the vehicle’s path or speed.
For the 40 per cent of collisions involving a pedestrian in which the cyclist was deemed to bear responsibility, the most common contributory factors were:
16 per cent – the cyclist failing to look properly
9 per cent – the cyclist failing to judge the pedestrian’s path or speed and
8 per cent – the cyclist disobeying signals.
According to the council, “The above highlights that there is a need for greater levels of awareness amongst all road users.
“Although TfL has aimed to encourage all road users to safely share the road, this remains an issue and more work focused on individual user groups is needed to help foster mutual respect on Westminster’s streets,” it added.
The council reported that in 2011, some 371 cyclists had been killed or injured on its roads, with 30 of those incidents resulting in fatal or serious injuries. It said that preliminary figures suggested there would be an increase in 2012, and that including slight injuries, there was an upwards trend since 2005 and that cyclists were accounting for an increasing proportion of casualties on its roads.
“However,” it added, “this needs to be set in the context of the large increase in cycling seen over the last 10 years, with the rate of growth in cycling numbers far exceeding the increase in casualties.”
One finding that merits closer scrutiny was that 80 per cent of cyclists killed or seriously injured within the last few years were male, which the council says “is higher than the general proportion of male cyclists on the roads.”
TfL data show that in Greater London as a whole, men made up 76 per cent of cyclists killed or seriously injured during 2010/11, but made 72 per cent of journeys during 2011.
The City of Westminster went on: “This may reflect riskier behaviour by or towards male cyclists, or it could indicate that women may be more comfortable using quieter but less direct routes which put them at less risk.”
That 80 per cent figure is identical to one that appeared in a 2009 Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) report which studied incidents in which cyclists had been killed or seriously injured throughout Great Britain; however, researchers said that in terms of distance cycled there was little variation between men and women in terms of their likelihood to be involved in an accident.
Within Greater London, however, and looking at fatalities alone, a consistently disproportionate number of victims are female each year, typically killed in collisions with lorries at junctions – in recent years, there have been a number of such incidents in boroughs that border the City of Westminster.
Most recently, the latest incident to have claimed the life of a cyclist in London, Dr Katharine Giles who died last month after being hit by a tipper lorry, took place in the borough itself, at the junction of Palace Street and Victoria Street – the first death of a cyclist in Westminster for more than three years, the council says.
That same TRL report found that some of the issues generally perceived to put cyclists at increased risk of being hit by a vehicle were only a factor in a very small proportion of cases where a rider had been killed or seriously injured - wearing dark clothing at night was believed to be a potential factor in just 2.5 per cent of the incidents analysed, while not using lights or jumping red lights were each cited as a factor in just 2 per cent of them.
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.