Cycling UK has slammed the Stormont’s “lack of movement in reducing cyclist casualties in 10 years” as “shameful”, after latest figures published by the Northern Ireland Government showed the number of people killed or seriously injured while cycling had barely changed.
Department for Infrastructure’s (DfI) recent report shows that on average, the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI) per 100 million kilometres between 2012 and 2022 was 59 each year, marking a negligible change from the 60.7 per year between 2004 and 2008.
This is despite DfI’s announcement in 2012 to reduce the number of cycling casualties.
In light of this information, active travel charity Cycling UK has renewed its calls for Stormont to adopt changes made to the Highway Code in Great Britain designed to make the roads safer for people cycling and walking.
In January 2022, the Department for Transport in Westminster announced updates to the Highway Code to make the roads safer for people cycling and walking in England, Scotland and Wales.
These updates included guidance for people driving on giving more than 1.5m when overtaking cyclists and the establishment of a hierarchy of road users. The hierarchy established priority for the most vulnerable road users, placing people walking at the top followed by those cycling, horse riding, motorcycling, driving cars and HGVs.
However, last year, DfI officials briefed against adopting the Highway Code update, which require ministerial approval, resulting in Northern Ireland missing its chance to adopt new measures designed to protect road users.
Cycling UK said: “Despite pressure from road safety groups, Stormont has still not even consulted on accepting any updates to the NI Highway Code. These changes, if adopted, will help make the roads safer for everyone.”
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “Ten years ago Stormont set a worthy ambition of reducing deaths on our roads, so it’s shameful to see nothing has changed over that period.
“Last year Stormont dithered and delayed in adopting changes to the Highway Code that would have made the roads safer for everyone, and could have helped prevent needless casualties. When a new minister is in place they cannot be complacent; they need to adopt the changes swiftly and in full, anything less is a dereliction of duty in the face of these avoidable deaths.
“It’s easy to be complacent about statistics, but every single one of those killed or seriously injured when cycling each year represents a real tragedy that Stormont has effectively ignored by failing to make the necessary changes.
“These latest figures should be a wake-up call to our decision-makers to take action and bring in the much-needed updates to the Highway Code. Every life needlessly lost or damaged is a profound tragedy and this update is vital to combat that trend.”
In September last year, Cycling UK accused a Sinn Féin minister of “neglecting Northern Ireland's future” and “locking us all into a fossil-fuelled dark age” after he appeared to renege on a pre-election pledge to introduce an Active Travel Act in Northern Ireland.
Andrew McCleanCycling UK’s spokesperson in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s baffling the Minister and his department can’t see the short and long-term benefits of encouraging more cycling and walking.”
“To date Cycling UK has received flimsy excuses as to why the Minister is doing nothing to help people travel cheaply.”
Cycling UK called the bid “baffling” when everyday safety policy is still putting cyclists “at risk” and omits recent Highway Code changes.
McClean stressed that whilst Cycling UK would “love” to see the race return to the island of Ireland, “a real lasting legacy for cycling would be for Northern Ireland to stop ignoring the essential work required to help people travel cheaply, sustainably and safely by bike”.
Northern Ireland also remains the only UK region not to have introduced the School Streets initiative, which restricts traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times and aims to encourage children to cycle, scoot, or walk to school.
In February, Dr Jen Banks, a mum from Downpatrick compared her current school run to “going into battle”, and described the situation on the road around the school as one of “fumes, anxiety, frustration, and danger”.
“My son recently asked me if he could cycle to school on his own bike, and I said, ‘no, it’s not safe’,” Dr Banks said.
“Edward Street as a School Street with access by foot, scooter or cycle could become safe and peaceful for everyone to live, learn, play, and breathe.
“At the minute there are parked cars lining both sides of the road and a queue of vehicles waiting, engines rolling, at either end for the chance to dart up or down.
“Huge lorries are having to reverse as they’ve got stuck, school buses can’t access the school, and cars are mounting the pavements. There is a perceivable layer of fumes, anxiety, frustration, and danger.
“The school is not the problem,” she noted. “The infrastructure that these children are striding into undoubtedly is.
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.