Friday, 6 November 2009

U.K Cycling Accident Stats

I was listening to the radio on the way into work this morning and a news item mentioned that new statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) show a worrying rise in the number of cyclists injured on Britain's roads.

In the second quarter of this year, the number of riders killed or seriously injured rose by 19% compared to the same period last year, from 688 to 820, while the overall number of reported cyclist casualties rose by 9% to 4,860.

There was a spokeswoman from the DfT interviewed and she put forward two interesting facts, which probably holds true for a lot of developed countries feeling the recession. Roughly from memory these were:

1. Taken in the context of a significant rise in the number of riders, people are ditching their cars and turning to bikes because of the recession, environmental fears and schemes like Cycle to Work so the figures aren't as alarming as they first appear.

2. However with the reduction in the amount of motorised traffic on our roads caused by the above, it is possible to also suggest that some car drivers are seeing clearer roads and increasing their speeds.

She also said that provisional estimates for a single three-month period shouldn't be taken in isolation as the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the roads each year has fallen by 31 percent since the mid-1990s. The number of people cycling is increasing. Cycle traffic rose by 12% between 2007 and 2008 – and this is likely to be a factor in the estimated number of casualties for the beginning of this year.”

Carl Christopher, spokesman for RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), said it was too early to say how significant the 19% rise was because it was only a quarterly figure.

He said: "It could be a temporary thing, or it could be because of a longer-term trend of people swapping their cars for bikes due to the recession. Also, heavy goods traffic has decreased, and if there's less congestion the traffic can travel faster, and that puts the two-wheeled community at risk".

"It concerns us because it's such a high rise – almost 20%. A lot of people are put off cycling because of concerns about their safety. It would be a shame for people to hear these figures and be dissuaded".

"We'd advise people who are new to cycling to get some short rides in first, some practice in the park, before braving the roads. The key thing at this time of year is to make yourself visible by wearing reflective clothing and using lights."

Chris Peck from UK cyclists' organisation CTC told The Guardian newspaper that the rise could be due partly to more inexperienced riders taking to the road and a "deterioration" in riding behaviour, particularly in London.

Noting that Transport for London figures showed that in recent years around five percent of cyclists killed in the capital had been jumping a traffic signal at the time, he told the paper: "It's not a big factor, but it could be something. It is fair to say that particularly in London, riding behaviour has deteriorated in recent years."

The CTC could not provide BikeRadar with further proof to back up this claim, but a spokeswoman said anecdotal evidence from their SMIDSY campaign ('Sorry mate, I didn't see you") suggested it could be a factor.

Mr Peck said: "I expect that the increase in casualties 2009 is probably a consequence of a substantial increase in cycling. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done to improve the safety of cycling – especially by reducing speed limits and improving both driver and cycle training.”

Personally I think all of the above are valid points, however they forget to mention the "steam gives way to sail" or as I call it the "I don't give a damn" attitude I see a lot of riders taking, especially when I'm in my car or on foot. The amount of cyclists I see - admittedly young males mostly - who at pedestrian crossings & vehicle junctions don't stop, jump on and off kerbs at junctions to get around lights and blatantly ignoring the lights altogether is more common than seeing them actually stop and give way. They seem to think that because they offer a low profile on the road that they are easier to miss or can weave in and out to get by with minimal looking around at the conditions.

Just last Friday night I was driving my eldest son into town after dark and at the bottom of our road there's a mini roundabout. I saw 2 kids shoot down the pavement, straight off the kerb and across the road. They were all in black or dark clothes, no lights and if I hadn't slowed down I'd have hit one of them for sure. My comment to my son was "they haven't long for this world at that rate".

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