Close shaves with traffic when riding a bike are critical to people’s future decisions to cycle - and should be measured, according to the Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman.
The data would also be a clear indication of whether cycle infrastructure is working or not, he said, as near misses would decrease dramatically in areas with good traffic layout.
Writing a blog for the Huffington Post in support of The Near Miss Project, which has catalogued the daily cycling experience of more than 1,500 cyclists across the UK, Boardman said: “Many people in this country will tell you that cycling is safe, and the statistics do back that up. You have more chance of being killed walking a mile than you do cycling a mile and there is just one fatality for the equivalent of every 1,000 times cycled around the Earth.
“However, what those statistics don't tell you is what cycling on our roads is actually like and whether or not the experience is an enjoyable one. This is a critical thing to acknowledge, as we make decisions - such as whether to cycle in the first place - based as much on how we feel as on the facts.”
Earlier this month we reported how the survey is to continue for a second year, with cyclists urged to sign up for the initiative.
Led by Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster and funded by Creative Exchange and Blaze, news that the initiative will carry on follows the publication of the first year’s report.
Each of the 1,532 participants kept a diary of a day’s cycling between 20 October and 2 November last year, recording all of their journeys by bike and noting and incidents they found scary or annoying, both ranked on a scale of 0-3.
In all, 3,994 incidents were recorded, with researchers concluding that the average cyclist in the UK will be involved in a “very scary incident” around once a week, and 60 such incidents each year.
Boardman added: “This project converts people's personal experiences of these things into facts, and British Cycling and I would like to see the near miss 'rate' used as a key performance indicator to measure improvements in any given area.
“I'd like to see this on a city by city, town by town basis across the country to allow rigorous comparisons. If we see the improvements in cycling infrastructure that the government has promised to make, then we should see the number of near misses decrease rapidly. It would be the easiest way for the powers that be to measure whether investment in cycling infrastructure has truly been successful.”
A near miss, according to the project's definition, can range from rudeness to almost collision. Aldred says while these incidents can stop people cycling, most were "systematic and predictable”.
Aldred says close passes have become part of the culture of British driving, as drink driving was a generation ago. She said: "As with drink-driving, we need an ongoing, concerted effort to make it socially unacceptable. This should go alongside remedying the many examples of road infrastructure putting cyclists at increased risk of close passes."