Two thirds of cyclist injuries following collisions with motor vehicle due to driver, says City of Westminster

London borough reveals its analysis in its draft Cycling Plan for 2013-2026

by Simon_MacMichael   May 9, 2013  

Houses of Parliament copyright Simon MacMichael .jpg

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.

11 user comments

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I'm sure the Daily Hate Mail will change this to "cyclists responsible for 1in5 road accidents", then in the smallest clarification in the article will say "involving bikes".... Seriously though, how can a government look at figures like this and not protect the vulnerable?

Oh, hang on. I remember. It's cos I live in the UK...

posted by bikerdavecycling [71 posts]
9th May 2013 - 7:59

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I have said it befoore and will say again, we need a minister or someone with a bit of clout to get hurt whilst on a bike before anything will radically change.

Not that i want to see anyone get hurt though !

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2712 posts]
9th May 2013 - 8:53

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bikerdavecycling wrote:
I'm sure the Daily Hate Mail will change this to "cyclists responsible for 1in5 road accidents"

Since I suspect even those half-wits would struggle to spin this one, I reckon they'll go for their second item in the bag of tricks - and not report it at all

"None so blind as those that will not see"

posted by mad_scot_rider [546 posts]
9th May 2013 - 9:05

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So, if I choose to make a journey on my bike, I am putting myself at risk. (And yes I know the arguments about the risk being relatively low compared to driving, walking, etc, and the health benefits outweighing those risks, but still, every time a car or lorry makes a close pass I'll tense-up and wonder if this is the one. Especially with my daughter in the child seat).

And if the drivers are the ones at fault in the majority of cases then that means there's effectively very little I can do personally to ameliorate that risk. Just hope that Westminster council manage to persuade all the drivers to chill out and be nice? Or maybe one of their free bells will save me?

Is it any wonder so few people cycle?

Subjectively safe cycle infrastructure can't come soon enough.

posted by pmanc [115 posts]
9th May 2013 - 11:08

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"And if the drivers are the ones at fault in the majority of cases then that means there's effectively very little I can do personally to ameliorate that risk"

I disagree. There's lots you can do, mostly in the vein the "Roadcraft" style of vehicular cycling. It's stuff that you mostly shouldn't have to do, and some of it is stuff that's difficult if you're either not fit or not confident, but you can go a very significant way to protecting yourself against pretty much all driver errors other than someone slamming into the back of you on an open road.

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posted by Bez [371 posts]
9th May 2013 - 11:24

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What we need is a lot more articles like this, but on statistics about people being killed or seriously injured while driving.

Since articles like this seem to be a factor in putting people off cycling because it makes it seem dangerous maybe driving a car should be made to seem dangerous too.

posted by Auriane [5 posts]
9th May 2013 - 11:29

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stumps wrote:
I have said it befoore and will say again, we need a minister or someone with a bit of clout to get hurt whilst on a bike before anything will radically change.

Not that i want to see anyone get hurt though !

I think it would take several such instances to get even a small change.

posted by thereverent [298 posts]
9th May 2013 - 13:04

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Bez wrote:
I disagree. There's lots you can do...

Of course you're right up to a point, although you I think you've conveniently ignored various scenarios, such as large vehicles which change lane on top of cyclists (whether they've "taken the lane" or not) perhaps because the driver suddenly decides they need to turn left - this is far more common than the kind of incident you describe. I would rather subject myself to potential abuse than risk being run over. But as you say, putting yourself in the middle of the road can be less than relaxing even for a relatively fit bloke, and I worry that your comment could easily be twisted into "cyclists can avoid these kind of injuries by cycling skilfully and confidently, so it's their own fault".

Auriane wrote:
Since articles like this seem to be a factor in putting people off cycling because it makes it seem dangerous maybe driving a car should be made to seem dangerous too.

In this country if we say a certain activity is "dangerous" (or "unsafe", etc), we might mean it causes danger (perhaps for some third party), or we might mean it is risky for the participant, perhaps through no fault of their own. The two are quite different things and it's a quirk of language which often muddies the water.

posted by pmanc [115 posts]
9th May 2013 - 14:23

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“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.”

Westminster has some very wide roads, that are made narrow by parking or cramming more car lanes in. Give this space over to proper cycle lanes and you will have the space.

posted by thereverent [298 posts]
9th May 2013 - 14:26

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pmanc wrote:

In this country if we say a certain activity is "dangerous" (or "unsafe", etc), we might mean it causes danger (perhaps for some third party), or we might mean it is risky for the participant, perhaps through no fault of their own. The two are quite different things and it's a quirk of language which often muddies the water.

What I am saying is, that while this kind of reporting is seen as activism to promote the creation of more cycling infrastructure, it also serves to put people off.
It does make some people believe that when they go out on their bike some idiot is just going to run them over.
And I do sincerely believe that more people cycling would make cycling safer. I can tell such a big difference between London, where I used to live and Canterbury, where I live now. In London people are much more used to sharing the road with bikes than here and it does make cycling feel safer.

Now cycling isn't that dangerous an activity and neither is driving. But you can make a statistic sound almost any way you want with a bit of subtle reporting.
For example what are the chances that you are at fault as a driver in a collision with another driver? Presuming you are both average drivers it will be around 50%.
So in 50% of cases the collision is not your fault! Sounds a bit alarming to me even though it isn't. Now insert the word 'fatal' before collision in the last sentence and it will sound even worse.

posted by Auriane [5 posts]
9th May 2013 - 15:41

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One thing that is missing in all this is what I like to call the "sail over steam" principle, where on the water, the less-maneuverable sailing ships have priority over the motorised vessels (or "stinkpots" Smile

I think cars should be required to give way to cyclists and cyclists to pedestrians, even when they do stupid things, because otherwise people will be hurt or killed. Having the right of way doesn't make it OK to kill people.

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [126 posts]
12th May 2013 - 12:11

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