British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman says that a 5 per cent annual rise in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads is “concerning” and has urged the government to do more to improve the safety of all road users.
His comments come as the Conservative Party stands accused of having failed to continue the momentum in reducing casualties among all road users since targets were abolished in 2010, with AA president Edmund King describing five fatalities a day as “totally unacceptable.”
The targets, introduced nearly three decades earlier, were scrapped by former secretary of state for transport Philip Hammond after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties formed their coalition government.
Charts accompanying the publication today of the Department for Transport’s Reported road casualties in Great Britain – Annual report 2016 show that across all road user groups, there were sharp declines in the number of people killed between 2006 and 2010.
But in the years since, again across all road users – car occupants, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and children – the number of fatalities each year has fluctuated around the 2010 level.
Factors other than the abolition of the targets in play, such as cuts to roads policing and funding for speed cameras as well as the rise in ownership of smartphones and consequent use at the wheel despite tougher penalties.
But the fact remains that 1,792 people in Great Britain lost their lives in road traffic collisions in 2016, and while the DfT highlights that the number is 4 per cent down on the previous year, it is the highest death toll since 2011.
Boardman, quoted on Britishcycling.org.uk, said that the data “shows that more needs to be done to make Britain’s roads safe, not just for cyclists, but for drivers and pedestrians.
“The number of people being killed and seriously injured is increasing, showing a lack of resources focusing on the real cause of dangers on the road,” he added.
Meanwhile, King urged the government to bring back targets and aim for a “vision zero” for road deaths and serious injuries.
“It is of great concern that road deaths in Great Britain seem to have plateaued out over the last five years. Five deaths per day is totally unacceptable.”
He continued: “There is definitely more we can do to educate via speed awareness and other corrective courses.
“Re-introducing targets and aiming for towards vision zero would be a step in the right direction,” King added.
“Changes can be made,”insisted Boardman, who is now combing his new role of Greater Manchester Cycling & Walking Commissioner with his existing one at British Cycling.
“Countries like the Netherlands and Denmark faced the same issues 40 years ago and decided to make a commitment to cycling as a proper, viable, form of transport.
"The evidence for this working is clear. The changes made in the Netherlands saw the number of child deaths from either walking, cycling or car accidents, drop from 400 in the 1970s to just 10 by 2010," he pointed out.
“We now need our government to do the same.”
Last year, 102 cyclists, two more than in 2015, lost their lives in Great Britain – among them, Boardman’s mother, Carol.
Meanwhile, 3,397 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in 2016, up 5 per cent on the previous year and 9 per cent on the 2010-14 average.
The increases are roughly in line, according to the DfT, with growth in the total distance cycled in Britain in each year, and it warns that the figures should be treated with caution due to changes in the way some police forces collect casualty data.
What the numbers don’t suggest though, is that Britain’s roads are getting any safer for people on bikes, although there are hopes that may finally be changing.
Last week, it was revealed that West Midland’s Operation Close Pass, introduced in September 2016, has led to a 20 per cent reduction in the number of cycling KSIs there in the past 12 months.
However, it will be at least a year until we see how it impacts on the national figures as other forces have adopted it, and longer still to be able to judge whether any downward trend is maintained.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.