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Sharp rise in cyclist deaths on country roads in France blamed on “increasingly aggressive” drivers

Almost four in ten riders who lost their lives last year were aged 55+ and on rural roads

An organisation representing cyclists in France says that “increasingly aggressive” drivers are behind a big rise in deaths of people riding bikes, especially in rural areas, and has urged that a road safety forum be put in place to address the issue.

The call to action by the Fédération des Usagers de la Bicyclette (FUB) – like Cycling UK a member of the European Cyclists’ Federation – follows the publication of provisional figures that revealed a 30 per cent jump cyclist fatalities in France in 2022 compared to 2019, the latter being the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic, reports The Connexion.

A provisional report from the country’s road safety observatory, ONISR, shows that last year, 244 people – 210 men and 34 women – were killed on French roads while riding bikes, with the rise in the number of fatalities on rural roads is outpacing those in cities. A further 2,700 people were seriously injured.

Around 44 per cent of the fatal crashes happened in urban locations, the remaining 56 per cent being in rural areas, and of the 244 cyclists who died, 38 per cent were aged 55 and above and were riding in the countryside.

Responding to the report, FUB’s president, Teodoro Bartuccio, said: “We are seeing more and more aggression from motorists, particularly in the countryside where drivers seem most intolerant of cyclists. More than 60 per cent of cyclists who died after an accident were riding outside of city areas.”

Cities including the capital Paris, as well as Strasbourg, Grenoble and Nantes, have all invested heavily in cycling infrastructure and encourage people to get in the saddle, with levels of cycling in urban areas rising by 34 per cent from 2019 to 2022.

But while the rise in cycling deaths in built-up areas was lower, at 16 per cent, than the growth in cycling there, the opposite was found in rural areas, with levels of cycling up 18 per cent between 2019 and 2022, but the number of fatalities riding by 47 per cent.

And with central government promoting what it terms ‘soft mobility’ – what in the UK, we would call ‘active travel’ – the FUB is urging that rural riders be afforded similar interventions in terms of safety as those benefiting their urban counterparts.

“Whether for sport or leisure, we should be able to ride without fear of bad drivers,” Bartuccio added.

“Our future champions, some of whom will be participating in the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, are just as affected as casual bike users.”

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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