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Almost 20,000 cyclists lost their lives on EU roads from 2010-18, says new report

European Transport Safety Council says rate of reduction in cyclist death eight times slower than for car occupants

It may have ceased being part of the European Union last Friday, but road traffic casualty figures from the United Kingdom were incorporated in a report published the previous day which revealed the shocking statistic that across all 28 member states, almost 20,000 cyclists were killed in road traffic incidents between 2010 and 2018.

Besides the 19,450 cyclists who lost their lives during that period, the report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), which you can find here, also found that at least 51,300 pedestrians had been killed on EU roads. Combined, cyclists and pedestrians accounted for 29 per cent of all road deaths in the EU during 2018.

ETSC also said that deaths of cyclists were falling eight times more slowly than those of occupants of motor vehicles – declining, respectively by an average of 0.4 per cent and 3.1 per cent a year – and called for urgent action to improve the safety of people travelling by bike or on foot.

While increased levels of cycling in a number of EU countries was highlighted as one reason behind deaths of bike riders falling at a much slower rate, the report’s authors said it was also due to “the failure by the EU, many governments, local authorities and motor vehicle manufacturers to invest more heavily in measures to protect vulnerable road users.”

Across the EU, almost all pedestrian deaths – 99 per cent – resulted from collisions involving a motor vehicle, while the figure for cyclists was 83 per cent, with ETSC noting that “these groups are, by far, the least likely to harm other road users.”

More than half of those killed were people aged 65 or over, partly attributed to the fact that they have less ability to recover from serious injuries, but ETSC pointed out that with older people encouraged to stay active, “the challenge is how to improve safety while walking or cycling, particularly for high-risk groups such as the elderly and children.”

The report called on urban planners to follow a hierarchy that prioritises pedestrians and cyclists over private car users, to introduce 30kph speed limits as well as traffic-calming measures, and to take enforcement action against motorist in areas with heavy foot and cycle traffic.

Besides calling for improved data collection, given that many incidents in which a cyclist or pedestrian is killed or seriously injured do not get recorded, the report also said that targets for improving road safety should be introduced and urged the EU to invest in improving road safety as well as drawing up a strategy for safe active travel.

Graziella Jost, Projects Director at ETSC commented: “The EU is facing a multitude of challenges: the climate emergency; road deaths and serious injuries; air pollution and obesity. 

“Policies that improve the safety of cycling and walking can also make a major contribution to tackling all these challenges. 

“Some EU countries, the Netherlands and Denmark in particular, are showing the way forward. If they can do it, so can the rest of the EU.”

ETSC is a non-governmental organisation that is independent from the EU, although it does receive seem of its funding from the European Commission.

Among current projects it is working on is managing a three-year initiative called the EU Road Safety Exchange project which brings together experts on road safety from 12 member states to “to share best practice on reducing speed, building safe infrastructure and improve enforcement, data collection, as well as the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in urban areas.”

Much of the data in the report published last Thursday came from a wider-ranging report published last June which found that among all then 28 EU member states, the UK had the second worst record for reducing road deaths between 2010 and 2017.

The start of that period coincided with the then Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition formed after the 2010 general election scrapping road casualty reduction targets, with the previous downwards trend flat-lining since then.

That report encouraged local authorities across the EU to “actively apply for EU funds to improve urban road safety as the available funds from the current budgetary framework 2014-2020 are not yet fully exhausted,” with € 12.7 billion set aside for urban transport and € 2 billion for walking and cycling infrastructure during that period.

Such funding will no longer be available to the relevant authorities in the UK following the country’s exit from the EU.

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.

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