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CYCLING SAFETY

The Facts, Statistics & Research

19,000 cyclists are injured each year in the UK alone.

3,514 were serious injuries or deaths in 2014.
Source: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

One cyclist KILLED or SERIOUSLY INJURED for every 100,000 hours of cycling.
Source: Department for Transport National Travel Survey

There are about 4,000,000,000 cyclists in the world and increasing urbanisation means that cycling is getting riskier.  The figures to the left are from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, they have also shown that 75% of those accidents occur in urban areas. Their research has also shown that cycling accidents that happen at night are more likely to be fatal. Overlay that data with research conducted amongst 5000 adults by the Child Accident Prevention Trust in 2011 which discovered that 55% of them travelled to and from work on ‘autopilot’, with 25% unable to recall details of their commute, including whether or not they had stopped at red traffic lights, and it seems clear that cyclists could do with some extra standout on the road. 

Cycling Deaths & Fatal Injuries

These figures only include cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police. Many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police, even when the cyclist is inured badly enough to be taken to hospital. The figures also exclude cycling accidents that occur away from the road. Although the number of deaths is accurate, there could be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured.

Cyclist casualties have risen in recent years as the amount of cycling has increased.
The majority of cyclist casualties are adults, with approximately 11% being children.
Cycling accidents increase as children grow older, with 10 to 15 year old riders being more at risk than other age groups, including adults until about the age of 60 years.
Most cycling accidents happen in urban areas where most cycling takes place. Almost two thirds of cyclists killed or seriously injured were involved in collisions at, or near, a road junction, with T-junctions being the most commonly involved. Roundabouts are particularly dangerous junctions for cyclists. Not surprisingly, the severity of injuries suffered by cyclists increases with the speed limit, meaning that riders are more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries on higher speed roads. Almost half of cyclist deaths occur on rural roads.

Accidents that occur in urban areas.

Source: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Attitudes towards cycling

Agree strongly/agree that it is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads

Non-Cyclist 67%
Cyclist 48%
Female 69%
Male 53%

Source: British Social Attitude survey, 2013 (NatCen Social Research)

Dangers of Cycling

We shouldn’t take news about people being killed while cycling lightly. The hazards cyclists are exposed to and that put people off cycling in the first place are very real. Statistically, according to CTC, you should be fine on the road. But what the statistics don’t show is the impact even a minor collision has on people who are not inside a vehicle. It can easily cause life-changing injuries without ending up as a statistic. Even a near miss or just the sheer aggression one might experience on the streets is clearly enough for people to give up cycling or to cycle less than they would like to.
As the statistics to the left shows, even non-cyclists are too afraid to ride their bike because of the potential dangers out there. According to the British Medical Journal, the most important deterrent to riding bikes expressed by non-cyclists is fear of motor traffic.

Role of Visibility

The role of visibility is one of, if not the most important aspect of being safe cycling on the roads. As the Dept for Transport report “Collisions at night/in the dark were more likely to result in a fatality, and rural roads present particular difficulties, as not only are the speed limits generally higher but the roads are often unlit. A detailed examination of these accidents found that the bicycle was commonly impacted in the rear by the vehicle.” Increased promotion of the use of cycle lights and wearing high-visibility/reflective clothing may help reduce the risk of such collisions in the dark.

This study explored the beliefs and attitudes of cyclists and drivers regarding cyclist visibility, use of visibility aids and crashes involving cyclists and motorists. Data are presented for 1460 participants (622 drivers and 838 cyclists) and demonstrate that there are high rates of cyclist-vehicle crashes, many of which were reported to be due to the driver not seeing the cyclist in time to avoid a collision. A divergence in attitudes was also apparent in terms of attribution of responsibility in cyclist-vehicle conflicts on the road. While the use of visibility aids was advocated by cyclists, this was not reflected in self-reported wearing patterns, and cyclists reported that the distance at which they would be first recognised by a driver was twice that estimated by the drivers. Collectively, these results suggest that interventions should target cyclists’ use of visibility aids, which is less than optimal in this population, as well as re-educating both groups regarding visibility issues.

Drivers’ and cyclists’ experiences of sharing the road: incidents, attitudes and perceptions of visibility.

15% of CYCLING DEATHS are related to a lack of visibility clothing/adequate lights.
Source: NHS – Cycling Safety: A Special Report

Cycling accidents in the dark are more likely to be

FATAL

Source: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Role of Indicators

There may be a lack of lighting-related crash data for bicycles but there is a ton of data for cars– enough that, by 1949, even the color of head lights and tail lights was internationally codified in the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic.  It was determined that the most important aspect of vehicle lighting was being seen by and communicating with other motorists and non-motorists. White lights indicated the front of a vehicle or an oncoming vehicle. Red lights indicated the back of a vehicle and/or a braking vehicle. By contrast, there is no requirement that any bicycles be sold with lights. This is absurd. Can you imagine if automobiles didn’t come with front or back lights and people had to buy after-market, clip-on lights for them? You would have a scenario similar to bicycles where (depending on where you lived in the world) 35–75% of drivers would be driving around at night with no lights of any kind!

Habits of Cyclists

All too often have we all seen the bad habits of certain cyclists. Even experienced cyclists will repeat some of these habits from time to time. It is very important for cyclists to recognise these habits and make an effort to make sure they don’t run into the same problems as these habits can become very dangerous and in some cases fatal.

  • Ride above 20mph – everywhere.
    During training even pro’ cyclists spend most of their time riding between 15 and 20mph.
  • Overlap wheels
    In groups, it’s easy to overlap your front wheel with someone’s back wheel. This is a disaster waiting to happen for beginners.
  • Cycling on footpaths
    Woman with prams, children and the elderly like to walk on footpaths. Doing over 20mph on the footpath is going to end badly.
  • Ride 2 abreast in a single lane of traffic
    Be courteous to other traffic and ride single file until it becomes dual lane.
  • Run red lights
    Self-explanatory as to why this is so dangerous. Group rides tend to enhance this sort of poor behavior. It gives cyclists a really bad name and we should all make an effort to behave.
  • Helmets
    Yes, wear one – but please put it on the right way. Check and then check again.
  • Climbing in wrong gears
    Whatever gradient you’re on, you need a consistent cadence of 90-100rpm. Any lower and you’re too high a gear, putting too much strain on your joints; Any higher and you’re in too low a gear, wasting energy pinning your legs around at speed.

During the past few years, no more than

17% of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

“Failed to look properly” was attributed to the car

drivers in 57% of serious collisions.
Source: Dept for Transport Report – Collisions Involving Cyclists on Britain’s Roads