New statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) have revealed a 10% fall in the number of cyclists killed on Britain’s roads in 2009 over the previous year, while CTC, the cyclists’ organisation, has said that a 5% rise in the number of bike riders killed or seriously injured during the three months to June 2010 needs to viewed in the context of a 6% increase in cycling.
According to the DfT, a total of 850 cyclists were killed or seriously injured during the three months to the end of June 2010, a 5% increase over the comparable period in 2008, but reflecting a 28% decline over the average for those three months from 1994 to 1998.The figure for all casualties reported to the police, including cyclists who were slightly injured, rose by a similatr proportion during the same period.
“Serious injury” is defined by the DfT as “an injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an ‘in-patient’, or any of the following injuries whether or not they are detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns (excluding friction burns), severe cuts, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the accident.”
Taking all road users into accounts, deaths fell by 16% to 470 in April to June 2010 compared to the equivalent months in 2008, while the number of people killed or seriously injured dropped 6% to 6,620. The DfT recorded a decline across all user classes other than pedal cyclists.
The DfT also published annual statistics for 2009. In its Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2009 Annual Report, the DfT revealed that during 2009, 104 cyclists lost their lives in road traffic accidents, compared to 114 the previous year, reflecting a continued long-term decline in the number of cyclists killed each year; in 2007, 136 cyclists died, while between 1994 and 1998, an annual average of 186 bike riders were killed.
That means that the number of cyclists killed on the roads was 44% lower in 2009 compared to the annual average for the 1994-98 period, and the DfT report added that between 1994-98 and 2009, levels of bicycle traffic rose by 22%.
The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured rose 6% to 2,710, while the total number of casualties, including those who were slightly injured, showed a 5% rise to reach 17,064.
Four in five reported cycle casualties were male (81%), and men accounted for a similar proportion of fatalities (80%). Men aged 16-59 accounted for 58% of all casualties, but 47% of fatalities. One in five casualties were children aged 15 or under, but only 13% of deaths.
Roger Geffen, Campaigns Director at CTC, commented: “The 5% rise in cycle casualties [from April-June 2010] may simply reflect the latest figure we have for the annual growth in cycle use of 6%. There is no evidence for pinning the blame on new or inexperienced cyclists.”
He continued, “People also said that novice Boris-bike users would cause carnage, when in fact they have an excellent safety record: just five reported injuries in a million trips, compared with a national average of 18.”
It should be pointed out, however, that the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme came into operation on 30 July, so while the general comparison is a reasonable one to draw, it does not reflect the same period.
Since the coalition government was formed following May’s general election, there have been concerns over the lack of priority given to the safety of cyclists on the road as a result of measures such as the 60% cut in the Road Safety Grant, and Mr Geffen urged the government to take steps to redress that situation.
“It is true however that, if the Government wants to fulfill its promise to support the growth in cycling, it needs to give much greater priority to improving the safety of cycling,” he said.
“The Government needs to develop policies which encourage more and safer cycling, recognising that cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are. The way it measures cycle safety needs to reflect this, so that if cycle casualties increase slightly but cycle use grows steeply, this is seen as good news, as this means cycling has got safer, as well as delivering health, environmental and other benefits.”
Referring to a provisional calculation of a 19% drop in the number of all road users killed or seriously injured in the year to June 2010, AA President Edmund King told the Press Association: "This reduction is a tremendous achievement. There were 3,409 deaths in 2000, with little change over the next five years."
"It is also a tribute to all that have striven towards meeting the targets set for 2010 by the government back in 2000. Britain now desperately needs a new target to galvanise road safety actions for the next decade and beyond."
Mr King, himself a keen cyclist, added that the rise in casualties among cyclists remained a concern, however.
"This is disturbing, and action is needed to ensure that more young cyclists taking to the road, and older ones returning to the road, receive the right training,” he said.
"There is particular concern about returnees who often think that experience as a kid on a cycle, and then as a driver, adequately equips them for cycling on today's roads."
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister also welcomed the figures, but sounded a note of caution about the impact on safety of speed cameras being turned off by cash-strapped councils, although as reported on road.cc earlier this week, Oxfordshire County Council is set to turn its cameras back on.
"On almost all fronts these figures provide welcome news,” he told the Press Association. “"Going forward the big question is how casualty figures will be affected by the switch-off in speed cameras and the subsequent noticeable increase in speeds at these sites."
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.