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Cyclist deaths and serious injuries fell in 2013 – but DfT says too early to say if it’s a long-term trend

Better weather last year may impact figures; Sustrans urges government to make roads safer for children

The number of people killed on Britain’s roads fell by 2 per cent to 1,713 in 2013 – the lowest level since national records were first kept in 1926, according to the Department for Transport (DfT). Drops were recorded in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured, but the DfT says it’s unclear whether that reflects an ongoing downwards trend.

During 2013, there was an 8 per cent fall in cyclist fatalities, which stood at 109 compared to 118 in 2012. The DfT pointed out, however, that during the past six years, the number of cyclists killed has fluctuated between around 100 and 120, making it impossible to assess whether the latest year-on-year reduction reflects a long-term trend, or whether it is a one-off fluctuation.

There was a similar cautionary note to the figures for cyclists who were seriously injured last year, totalling 3,143, down by 2 per cent on the previous year and the first fall recorded since 2004. Total casualties among cyclists rose 2 per cent to 19,438 as a result of a rise in the number of riders who sustained slight injuries.

Set against the 2005-09 average, while the number of deaths of cyclists last year recorded a fall of 16 per cent, the number of those who were seriously injured was up by nearly a third at 31 per cent. Total cyclist casualties were up 18 per cent in 2013 compared to the average for 2005-09.

While 2013 was an average year in terms of rainfall, the DfT points out that poor weather during 2012, the second wettest year on record, particularly between June and September, is likely to have reduced casualties among vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, who it says are more likely to be active during those months.

It adds: “Therefore, some caution is needed in interpreting the reduction in accidents between 2012 (very wet) and 2013 (much drier). Had the 2012 rainfall been lower, it is likely that there would have been a larger number of pedal cyclist, pedestrian and motorcyclist casualties in 2012 and thus a larger fall between 2012 and 2013.”

Cyclists made up 6 per cent of fatalities during the year, while motorcyclists accounted for 19 per cent, pedestrians 23 per cent and car occupant 46 per cent.

The DfT’s figures revealed that across Great Britain, 1,608 children were killed or seriously injured while walking or cycling, prompting Sustrans to urge the government to make roads safer for youngsters.

The sustainable transport charity’s head of policy, Claire Francis, said: “While this year has seen an overall decrease in the number of children killed and seriously injured on our roads, 32 young lives were still tragically lost in traffic incidents.

“Every child road death is one too many and it is shocking and unacceptable that on average more than four children are killed or seriously injured while walking or cycling each day.

“The tragedy is even greater when such a simple solution is at our fingertips – urgent action is needed to make our roads safer by making dedicated funding available, lowering traffic speeds and transforming local walking and cycling routes.

“The unseen consequence of these figures is a growing fear among parents that the roads are too dangerous for their children to walk and cycle. Every child has the right to walk and cycle safely; it’s time the government made this a reality – it’s a matter of life and death,” she added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Airzound | 10 years ago

This is no consolation to those who have been killed or suffered serious life changing injuries. The sentiment seems to be fewer killed so this is good. It's not. Very similar to CTC's misguided and terrible mission statement Safety in Numbers campaign. They wanted more cyclists to sign up with membership to boost their coffers so came up with this slogan. They didn't care that actually more cyclists were being killed or getting seriously injured as they used stats to show that as more people were taking up cycling proportionately fewer were being fatally or seriously injured. Warped logic. The death of one cyclist by being hit by a vehicle when they were merely riding their bike is one too many. They should have been campaigning lobbying hard for improved infrastructure for cyclists and harsher penalties for drivers who injure or kill cyclists. Scandalous.

burtthebike replied to Airzound | 10 years ago

Any fall in the number of cyclists' deaths is to be welcomed, but as the article points out, impossible to tell if this is a long term trend. Slightly concerned that yet again, Sustrans are seen as the organisation to talk to about cycling, when they aren't a cycling organisation.

@Airzound, you completely misrepresent CTC's Safety in Numbers campaign, as everywhere that the number of cyclists rises, cycling becomes safer. Cycling would be incredibly safe if there were no cyclists, which is what you seem to be suggesting. We can't get to the safety levels of Denmark and Holland unless we make cycling as universal as it is in those countries, and to call a campaign which seeks to acheive that "scandalous" is disingenuous to say the least. FYI, CTC has been lobbying hard for many years for better infrastructure and harsher penalties for killer drivers. Do you work for Sustrans by any chance?

DrRocks | 10 years ago

These stats are meaningless without data on the number of journeys by bike

gazza_d | 10 years ago

The trend of deaths does seem fairly static.

The trend of serious injuries is very worrying and possibly the increase when deaths are static/decreasing is down to improvements in emergency care keeping more people alive

These figures need to be taken in context of the percentage of total traffic, and of any increase or decrease in cycling or walking overall.

hasn't the overall trend for cycling been slightly downhill over the last decade or so? In which case the figures are worse

OldRidgeback | 10 years ago

RoadCC - You might want to post the other item I put on the forum this morning as well - the report from the US suggesting cyclists make roads safer.

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