Two reports released today by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that the number of cyclists killed on Britain's roads fell last year by 10 per cent while at the same time the number of miles cycled rose significantly. The DfT today also launched a new website Road Casualties Online to give members of the public access to the departments accident statistics.
Figures in Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2009 reveal that 104 cyclists were killed on the road last year, down from 115 in 2008. The drop in cycling fatalities reflects a drop in the numbers of deaths amongst all road users. The drop in cycling deaths is all the more surprising given the rise in the numbers of miles cycled on Britain's roads last year contained in another DfT report on traffic speeds and congestion. The amount of miles cycled in Britain rose last year by 4.4 per cent, to 3.1 billion miles, up from 2.9 billion miles in 2008. Motorised traffic accounted for 313.2 billion miles but the amount of miles travelled by cars, vans and lorries dropped for the second year running, the first time this has happened since records began in 1949.
However it was not all good news for cycling, while the number of fatalaties continued its welcome downward trend of recent years (down 44 per cent on the 1994-98 average of 186), the number of cyclists reported as seriously injured rose last year to 6 per cent to 2606 – however that has to be set against the rise in the number of miles travelled by bicycle, a point made by CTC Campaigns Officer, Chris Peck:
"While this rise in cycle casualties may seem a bad thing, there is no greater risk than previously, because levels of cycling have also gone up. In fact, the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling becomes. We know from countries and cities experiencing cycle growth that places with higher levels of cycling have a lower risk of injury from cycling. This is the Safety in Numbers principle, where more cyclists means drivers are more aware of cyclists; and are more likely to be cyclists themselves, and therefore more likely to understand how their driving may affect other road users. In addition, more people cycling leads to greater political will to improve conditions for cyclists.
“In fact, it’s more dangerous to not cycle than to cycle – the life expectancy of non-cyclists tends to be two years shorter, and cycling can help reduce the risk of a range of health problems, including heart disease and cancer.”
That drop in the amount of traffic on the roads is undoutedly the main reason for the drop in the numbers of deaths on Britain's roads last year, particularly given that the biggest drops were in the numbers of miles driven by heavy goods vehicles and light vans: the former have been linked with disproportionately large number of cycling deaths on London's roads. The recession and the rising cost of fuel are the most likely reasons for the drop in these types of traffic. The relative lack of lorries could also be the reason for the slight rise in the overall average speed across Britain's road network last year, up slightly to just over 55mph. Urban A-roads were the only ones to see a rise in traffic levels, while minor urban roads and rural roads saw traffic drop by 1.5 and 2.8 per cent respectively
Overall fatalities were down by 12 per cent on 2008 meaning that 2222 people are alive today basically because of the economic slowdown.
Possibly the biggest and most welcome drop in casualties was in the number of children killed which dropped by 35 per cent from 124 in 2008 to 81 in 2009. There was also a 3 per cent drop in the numbers of children seriously injured on the roads.
If you would like to find out more about road casualty statistics you can visit Road Casualties Online where once logged in users are given access to a large number of DfT reports dealing with amongst other things accident statistics by road type, vehicle type, accident severity.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.