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Netherlands motorway network among the factors keeping cyclist casualty rates down says study

Presumed liability law not found to have any major effect

An investigation into how the Netherlands achieved an 80 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed per kilometre over the last 30 years has identified a number of different factors, including low cycling speeds and a heavily-used motorway network. However, the country’s strict liability law was not found to have had a major effect.

The Dutch road to a high level of cycling safety, published in the journal Safety Science, found that high bicycle use, low cycling speeds, traffic-calmed areas where through traffic is kept out, and a heavily used motorway network have all contributed to improving cycling safety.

In contrast, comprehensive traffic education and training of both cyclists and motorists was found to have made “no or at most a very small contribution to cycling safety.”

Dutch to move ahead with banning cyclists from using mobiles while riding

The study also looked at the impact of strict liability laws, whereby unless it can clearly be proven that a vulnerable road user was at fault, the more powerful road user is found liable by default. The introduction of strict liability in the Netherlands in 1994 was not found to be associated with cycling safety.

Crikey reports that although a high amount of bicycle use – and a corresponding reduction in the number of drivers – was found to have a major influence on cycling safety; the study authors said that the level of network separation was a much more important factor.

Almost 60 per cent of all cycling in the Netherlands is done in traffic-calmed urban areas. The study highlights how through traffic has been shifted from these places to the country’s heavily-used motorway network.

Whereas around a quarter of all vehicle kilometres of travel in Europe take place on motorways, in the Netherlands the figure is more like a half, and at 57km per 1,000 square kilometres, it has the densest motorway network in Europe.

The study says: “A heavily used freeway network shifts motor vehicles from streets with high cycling levels. This reduces exposure to high-speed motor vehicles. Separated bicycle paths and intersection treatments decrease the likelihood of bicycle–motor vehicle crashes.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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Bmblbzzz | 7 years ago
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My reading of the report – sorry, I mean the article, I haven't read the report, of course – is that the busy motorways are somewhat of a red herring. They are an effect not a cause. Cycling is safer because of the road layout which reduces urban (motor) traffic, and increases it on motorways. It certainly does not follow that busy motorways make cycling safer; it's the quiet urban roads (and country lanes?) that do that. So it's a form of traffic reduction, or rather traffic shifting. 

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davel | 7 years ago
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oops dupe

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davel | 7 years ago
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@SP59: I'm not convinced that that completely undermines the 'safety in numbers' argument, and death reduction will always flatline somewhere, but it's a fair challenge - I'm surprised it's that high.

In 2014, 185 cyclists died on the 'roads' in the Netherlands - that's 72 more than the UK. I was surprised at that figure too - worth repeating: 64% more cycling deaths in the NL v UK.
http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/

I haven't got weighted figures to be able to compare against population and per mile cycled - those figures would be a fairer comparison, along with, like you say, the age breakdown, and any e-bike factors.

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burtthebike replied to davel | 7 years ago
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davel wrote:

@SP59: I'm not convinced that that completely undermines the 'safety in numbers' argument, and death reduction will always flatline somewhere, but it's a fair challenge - I'm surprised it's that high. In 2014, 185 cyclists died on the 'roads' in the Netherlands - that's 72 more than the UK. I was surprised at that figure too - worth repeating: 64% more cycling deaths in the NL v UK. http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/ I haven't got weighted figures to be able to compare against population and per mile cycled - those figures would be a fairer comparison, along with, like you say, the age breakdown, and any e-bike factors.

It may be 72 more deaths than in the UK, but as you later point out, those figures are meaningless without exposure rates.

Given the popularity of cycling in Holland, the death rate of cyclists would appear to be an order of magnitude less than the UK, or to put it another way, cycling is an order of magnitude safer than in the UK.

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davel replied to burtthebike | 7 years ago
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burtthebike wrote:
davel wrote:

@SP59: I'm not convinced that that completely undermines the 'safety in numbers' argument, and death reduction will always flatline somewhere, but it's a fair challenge - I'm surprised it's that high. In 2014, 185 cyclists died on the 'roads' in the Netherlands - that's 72 more than the UK. I was surprised at that figure too - worth repeating: 64% more cycling deaths in the NL v UK. http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/ I haven't got weighted figures to be able to compare against population and per mile cycled - those figures would be a fairer comparison, along with, like you say, the age breakdown, and any e-bike factors.

It may be 72 more deaths than in the UK, but as you later point out, those figures are meaningless without exposure rates.

Given the popularity of cycling in Holland, the death rate of cyclists would appear to be an order of magnitude less than the UK, or to put it another way, cycling is an order of magnitude safer than in the UK.

Exposure rates... popularity of cycling... order of magnitude... I want actual figures.

Anyhoo, apparently the bike's modal share is 26% of all journeys, compared to 2% in the UK. So, to crudely compare like-with-like and avoid more serious googling/number-crunching, the bike is used 13x more frequently than in the UK, and you're 1.6x more likely to die... so you're actually 8 times less likely to die in the NL.

Unreserved apologies to backs of fag packets, statisticians and maths. That's the best I can do at quarter to lunch.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to davel | 7 years ago
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davel wrote:
burtthebike wrote:
davel wrote:

@SP59: I'm not convinced that that completely undermines the 'safety in numbers' argument, and death reduction will always flatline somewhere, but it's a fair challenge - I'm surprised it's that high. In 2014, 185 cyclists died on the 'roads' in the Netherlands - that's 72 more than the UK. I was surprised at that figure too - worth repeating: 64% more cycling deaths in the NL v UK. http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/ I haven't got weighted figures to be able to compare against population and per mile cycled - those figures would be a fairer comparison, along with, like you say, the age breakdown, and any e-bike factors.

It may be 72 more deaths than in the UK, but as you later point out, those figures are meaningless without exposure rates.

Given the popularity of cycling in Holland, the death rate of cyclists would appear to be an order of magnitude less than the UK, or to put it another way, cycling is an order of magnitude safer than in the UK.

Exposure rates... popularity of cycling... order of magnitude... I want actual figures.

Anyhoo, apparently the bike's modal share is 26% of all journeys, compared to 2% in the UK. So, to crudely compare like-with-like and avoid more serious googling/number-crunching, the bike is used 13x more frequently than in the UK, and you're 1.6x more likely to die... so you're actually 8 times less likely to die in the NL.

Unreserved apologies to backs of fag packets, statisticians and maths. That's the best I can do at quarter to lunch.

You also need to take into account the demographics of cycling - far, far more older people cycle in the Netherlands. And, apparently, some of the cycling deaths are partly a case of elderly people expiring from age-related conditions while still mobile.

Also your mistake (looking at absolute numbers of deaths rather than the rate) is exactly the same one made by an EU report on road safety not long ago, and by at least one minister.

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davel replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 7 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

You also need to take into account the demographics of cycling 

 

I don't though, do I? I too can read SP59's post and I've satisfied my curiosity enough for chatting shit on a Web forum. When I next get invited on Question Time I'll have an aide read some actual reports. Or more learned road.cc comments.

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Also your mistake (looking at absolute numbers of deaths rather than the rate) is exactly the same one made by an EU report on road safety not long ago, and by at least one minister.

 

Is that the 'mistake' I acknowledged at the time I wrote it? Superseded by something of a punt at comparing UK vs NL deaths by numbers of journeys, while acknowledging that even that was a crude comparison but that it did for me, and apologising to backs of fag packets? An EU report made that exact mistake??

No wonder we voted out.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to davel | 7 years ago
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davel wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

You also need to take into account the demographics of cycling 

 

I don't though, do I? I too can read SP59's post and I've satisfied my curiosity enough for chatting shit on a Web forum. When I next get invited on Question Time I'll have an aide read some actual reports. Or more learned road.cc comments.

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Also your mistake (looking at absolute numbers of deaths rather than the rate) is exactly the same one made by an EU report on road safety not long ago, and by at least one minister.

 

Is that the 'mistake' I acknowledged at the time I wrote it? Superseded by something of a punt at comparing UK vs NL deaths by numbers of journeys, while acknowledging that even that was a crude comparison but that it did for me, and apologising to backs of fag packets? An EU report made that exact mistake??

No wonder we voted out.

In case it's not clear, I wasn't criticising you for your initial mistake [edit - because it sounds like you think its an attack - it really isn't, just pointing out the issue because it's come up before, from people who ought to know better].

And yes, the fact that an expensively-produced, official EU report made a similar error, did make a small contribution to the 'debit' column for me when trying to work out what I think of the EU.

http://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/road_safety

I mean, perhaps its just me, but the overall level of analysis in that report hovers somewhere between 'dire' and 'dismal'.

Quote:
" The share of cyclist deaths is
especially high in Denmark and the Netherlands.
The cyclists make up 17
% of all road deaths
in Denmark and 24
% of all road deaths in
the Netherlands.
Almost one quarter of all road deaths
in the Netherlands are cyclists"

Just stating that bare fact, with no context (i.e. what % of journeys are actually cycled), seems like almost deliberately giving a misleading impression.
I mean what's the point in such raw figures? You might as well state the number of people killed in skiing accidents and imply that therefore England is far better for skiing than Switzerland.

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kcr | 7 years ago
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I think the point about numbers of cyclists is telling; there are simply more people who cycle and therefore treat other cyclists with respect.
I remember waiting to cross a road to join the cycle path on the other side in NL. It wasn't a signalled crossing, I had no right of way, but a Range Rover driver pulled to a halt in the middle of the road and just sat there until I crossed. I was astonished when I thought about what would have happened in the UK.

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Roberts Clubman | 7 years ago
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Dutch drivers in my experience are no better than anywhere else. Lower traffic volumes in towns due to higher cycling rates is a big safety factor. But, the biggest difference is in the segregated infrastructure and the priority rules at junctions and crossings. When they do cross the path of cyclists, Dutch drivers expect to give way, and do so almost without exception. "Might is right" which is the default position in the UK is largely absent in the Netherlands. 

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ktache | 7 years ago
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They build their motorways different too.  We build spindly little bridges over the motorway.  They build their motorways over their excellent cycle and pedestrian routes.

https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/negotiating-a-large...

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burtthebike | 7 years ago
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A rather misleading headline, and the roads in urban Holland aren't safe because the motorways are busy, they are safe because drivers have been made to behave much more safely.  The motorways in the UK are equally busy, but that hasn't made our roads safe.

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Huw Watkins replied to burtthebike | 7 years ago
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burtthebike wrote:

 they are safe because drivers have been made to behave much more safely.  

Is the report saying that?   I'm reading this differently.

To wit:

'In contrast, comprehensive traffic education and training of both cyclists and motorists was found to have made “no or at most a very small contribution to cycling safety.”'

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DanSP replied to burtthebike | 7 years ago
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burtthebike wrote:

A rather misleading headline, and the roads in urban Holland aren't safe because the motorways are busy, they are safe because drivers have been made to behave much more safely.  The motorways in the UK are equally busy, but that hasn't made our roads safe.

I think they're suggesting that urban planning is more important than driver awareness. It's very difficult to cross through the middle of a modern Dutch town. Imagine if in London you could not cross from one side of zone 1 to the other - you were instead forced out to a ring road (typically a motorway) and then re-entered from the correct side. That's typically how it works in NL. By reducing through traffic for all but pedestrians and cycles, you severely limit the overall traffic density, thus reducing accidents. After all, most Dutch cycle journeys will be urban, or from the residential suburbs into the centre - exactly what car drivers will my be able to do. The increase in motorway usage is a byproduct of reducing through traffic, thus is representative of improved safety.

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Paul M replied to burtthebike | 7 years ago
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burtthebike wrote:

A rather misleading headline, and the roads in urban Holland aren't safe because the motorways are busy, they are safe because drivers have been made to behave much more safely.  The motorways in the UK are equally busy, but that hasn't made our roads safe.

You know, I could have sworn I read in the above article that driver education had been found to have almost zero effect on safety.

Certainly, my encounters with Ducth drivers in other countries, eg. In the Dordogne Valley, suggest that they are definitely not safer than anyone else.

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