National cyclists’ organisation CTC says that a 3% rise in the number of recorded cycling fatalities needs to be put in the context of an increase in the number of cyclists in recent years and that in proportional terms, cycling may actually be getting safer, while AA president, Edmund King said the increase in new cyclists was itself a contributing factor as motorists switched from four wheel to two to save money.
According to data released by the Department for Transport (DfT), in the year to September 2010, the total number of cyclists injured on Britain’s roads rose by 3% to 17,430. The number killed or seriously injured rose at the lower rate of 2% during the same period.
While figures for the number of people cycling are not quite so up-to-date, data from the DfT show 4% growth in those taking to two wheels during 2009.
Chris Peck, policy officer at CTC, pointed out that a BBC News report on the statistics had been wrong to cover the latest statistics under the headline “Cyclist death and injury rate rising, figures show.”
In that BBC News article, he had been quoted as saying: “While the increase in cycle casualties might look worrying, the risk to each individual may still be lower than before, when you consider the increase in the number of cyclists."
But in a subsequent statement, Mr Peck said: “The BBC is wrong to report death and injury rates as increasing. As we pointed out in our comment, cycling levels are increasing faster than injury rates.
“The concept of 'Safety in Numbers' suggests that injury rates rise at 0.4 of the growth in cycling. Rates are falling or holding steady, even if actual numbers of injuries may be rising. Last year cycling deaths fell to their lowest level ever recorded at the same time that cycling reached the highest level in 17 years.
“That being said, we are still urging the government to take stronger measures to make our roads safer for cyclists to use. I don't think there is anyone who feels that things are as safe as they'd like it to be and clearly safer roads and better cycle facilities will convince more people to return to cycling."
Cyclists were the only class of road user in which an increase in casualties was observed during the 12-month period. The number of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed or seriously injured both fell by 8% over the period, while that of car users dropped by 11%. Child casualties, too, fell during the year, with a decline of 5%.
However, in the third quarter of the year, covering July to September, which is historically the heaviest one of the year for cycling casualties, there was a marked rise in casualty numbers.
Total cycling casualties from July to September 2010 were 5% up on the comparable period in 2009, but the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured rose by 8% to 800.
AA president Edmund King told BBC News that rising petrol prices had meant that many motorists had switched to cycling to save money, which had in turn led to an increase in the number of accidents.
"These trends need to be countered and the country's road safety effort has to prepare for better times when more people drive," he said.
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.