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DfT casualty statistics for 2011 show sharp rise in the number of cyclists seriously injured on Britain's roads

Figures for all users show first annual increase in road deaths in nearly a decade, CTC blames cuts to policing and lack of government emphasis on road safety

Figures released today by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that the number of cyclists reported as being seriously injured on Britain’s roads last year rose by 16 per cent during 2011, a year in which the DfT says that cycle traffic increased by just 2.2 per cent. During the year, some 107 cyclists lost their lives, a 4 per cent decrease on the 111 recorded the previous year. The number of total reported cyclist casualties, including slight injuries, rose by 12 per cent compared to 2010. The figures have seen the government coming under criticism for failing to make road safety a priority.

While the number of deaths of cyclists recorded during 2011 was almost a fifth down on the 2005-09 average, the number of reported serious injuries among bike riders has risen in each of the past five years and now stands at nearly a third higher than the average for 2005-09, and while national cyclists' organisation CTC says there has been an increase in the levels of cycling during that period, there has been no improvement in the risk of injury.

Cycling reported road casualties, 2005-09 to 2011

                                                   % change % change
         2005-09                                   over avge    on
         average  2007   2008   2009   2010   2011  2005-09    2010

Killed      130    136    115    104    111    107    -18       -4
Serious*  2,398  2,428  2,450  2,606  2,660  3,085     29       16
KSI       2,528  2,564  2,565  2,710  2,771  3,192     26       15
Slight** 13,934 13,631 13,732 14,354 14,414 16,023     15       11
All      16,463 16,195 16,297 17,064 17,185 19,215     17       12

*  Seriously injured
** Slightly injured

Source: DfT, Reported Road Casualties Great Britain, main results 2011

Among all road users, the number of people killed increased by 3 per cent in 2011, and reported serious injuries were 2 per cent up on 2010 - both measures registering their first increase since, respectively, 2003 and 1994, and CTC argues that "cuts to traffic policing and signals from the Government that road safety isn't a priority may be partly to blame."

CTC’s Campaigns Director, Roger Geffen, commented: “After its previous unhelpful rhetoric about “ending the war on the motorist”, suggesting that road safety wasn’t a priority, Government now needs to reassert the importance of creating safe and attractive cycling conditions, promoting safe driving and tackling the threats posed by lorries. Creating safe conditions for existing and would-be cyclists is important not just for our health and the environment, but for the safety of other road users too.

He continued: "Britain’s cycle safety record is falling even further behind other north European countries which have far higher levels of cycle use.  We still have only a tiny fraction of our residential streets covered by 20 mph schemes, while hostile roads, bad driving, and weak law enforcement remain serious barriers to getting more people cycling.”

Martin Gibbs, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at British Cycling, added: “If we compare these recently released figures to the situation in 1994, that’s a 40% reduction in the number of people killed while cycling, and cycling participation figures have increased. But we can and must do better so that cycling is as safe as it possibly can be.

"That is why we are calling on the government to embed cycling in all road policy decisions so that we create a safe cycle-friendly environment. The Department for Transport needs to make cycling central to their transport strategy.”

Simon Best, chief executive of the road safety charity IAM, said: “It is unacceptable that road deaths and serious injuries rose last year, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who saw the greatest rises. Road accidents usually drop during an economic recession, so this rise after continuous reductions over the last ten years, is particularly concerning.

“Ministers should take this as a serious warning. Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets, and reductions in local authority spending all suggest that road safety isn’t a major priority for this government,” he added.

According to The Times newspaper, which has been recording cyclist fatalities during 2012 as part of its Cities fit for Cycling campaign, so far this year 42 cyclists have lost their lives in Great Britain.

Cycling levels - and casualties - are higher during the summer months, while another factor that makes year-on-year comparisons difficult is that it is impossible to tell what the impact is of the poor weather we have been experiencing, which is likely to have deterred many people from cycling.

Anecdotal evidence from regular cycle commuters in London, for example, is that sunny weather brings many more cyclists out onto the streets to commute.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Simon_MacMichael | 11 years ago

Musicalmarc: We don't have the total number of pedal cyclists, but we do have (very rounded) figures for billions of km cycled, also published today. In an ideal world, that would be a better gauge to work out the casualty rate than using absolute numbers of cyclists, but the data are only very sketchy and notoriously difficult to gather with any degree of certainty. I'll give it a bash in Excel though and see how the numbers stack up.

JonD: There are some regional breakdowns around. Will see what I can do with those.

musicalmarc | 11 years ago

what is the total number of pedal cyclists? It would be more useful to show how many injuries as a percentage of total cyclists at each time. total serious injuries has gone up by 687. There are certainly many more people riding nowadays so as a percentage of the total number of riders, serious injuries may well have gone down making cycling safer than it was in 2005.

JonD | 11 years ago

Probably worth adding that wrt the 4% reduction in cyclist deaths 2010>2011 (seriously injured increase by 16%) it states the estimated rise in pedal cyclist levels is 2.2%.

A geographical breakdown would be interesting..

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