Road safety and cycling: Overview
- The life years gained due to the health and fitness benefits of cycling in Britain outweigh the life-years lost through injuries by a factor of around 20:1; and one cyclist is killed on Britain’s roads for every 27.7 million miles travelled by cycle.
- You are about as unlikely to be killed in a mile of cycling as in a mile of walking.
- According to academic research, doubling cycle use would result in only a 25-30% increase in cycle fatalities - a 35-40% reduction in risk per cyclist.
- 67% of non-cyclists in Britain, however, feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads; and very nearly half (48%) of those who do cycle share this view.
- Overall, the UK has a good road safety record - but for cycle safety in particular, it is one of the poorer performing countries in Europe.
- In 2014, serious casualties amongst cyclists in Great Britain increased by 8% against the previous year, and 42% over the baseline average for 2005-2009.
Cycling UK View (formal statement of Cycling UK's policy):
- Road safety strategies, nationally and locally, should recognise that:
- Cycling is a safe activity, posing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users
- The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks involved
- Combined with good provision, cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are: the ‘safety in numbers’ effect
- The aim of cycle safety policies and initiatives should be to encourage more as well as safer cycling, in order to maximise its health, environmental and other benefits, and to improve overall safety for all road users
- Encouraging more as well as safer cycling involves tackling factors that deter cycle use. These include high traffic volumes and speeds; irresponsible driver behaviour; the unfriendly design of many roads and junctions; and lorries.
- The provision of cycle training to the national standard can also help people to cycle more, to ride more safely, and to feel safer and more confident while doing so. It can also help parents feel more confident about allowing their children to cycle.
- Increases in cyclist casualties may still mean cycle safety is improving if cycle use is increasing more steeply than cyclist casualties. Therefore targets and indicators for the effectiveness of road safety strategies should adopt ‘rate-based’ measures for improvements in cycle safety, e.g. cycle casualties (or fatal and serious injuries) per million km cycled, or per million trips. Simple casualty reduction targets should be avoided.
- ‘Perception-based’ indicators, which show whether public perceptions of cycle safety in a given area are getting better, can be used alongside ‘rate-based’ indicators, or as an interim substitute for the latter if necessary.
- Care should be taken to avoid cycle safety awareness campaigns that ‘dangerise’ cycling. These deter people from cycling or allowing their children to cycle and are counter-productive because they erode the ‘safety in numbers’ effect, as well as undermining the activity’s wider health and other benefits.
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Publication Date:December 2015