Road casualty statistics show investment in cycle infrastructure must not be limited to towns and cities

Is a default 60mph limit right for winding rural roads?
Rob Kingston's picture

Road casualty statistics show investment in cycle infrastructure must not be limited to towns and cities

Figures released by the Department for Transport today show a sharp rise in the rate of cyclist fatalities on rural A roads, while the death rate on urban roads continues to fall
  • In 2020 the rate of cyclist fatalities on rural A roads was 210 per billion miles cycled, an increase of 43% on 2019
  • Meanwhile, the rate of cyclist fatalities on urban A roads fell 10%, from 48 to 43 per billion miles
  • The total number of cyclists killed on British roads in 2020 was 141 – up 41% from 100 in 2019.
  • The distance cycled across the UK rose 46% year on year to 5.03 billion miles

Cycling UK today (30 September 2021) responded to the latest road casualty statistics published by the Department for Transport.

The figures reveal a highly concerning increase in cyclist fatalities on rural A roads, with 43% more cyclists dying on these roads for every mile cycled in 2020 compared to 2019. On urban A roads, by contrast, the fatality rate fell by 10%. Overall, 89 of the 141 cyclists killed last year died on rural roads, or 63%. This compares to 60% in 2019, and 54% on average between 2015 and 2019.

Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK’s campaigns manager, said: “This raises serious questions about the provision of safe routes for cycling in rural areas, especially direct routes into towns, which people are likely to rely on for commuting and other essential journeys. It also raises questions about whether a default speed limit of 60mph on winding and often relatively narrow rural roads is appropriate.

It's clear from these figures that we urgently need more investment in safe space for cycling across the country, and rural communities must not be left behind

Keir Gallagher, campaigns manager, Cycling UK

“It's clear from these figures that we urgently need more investment in safe space for cycling across the country, and rural communities must not be left behind.”

The total of 141 cyclists killed – a revision of the previously reported figure of 140 – represents a 41% increase on the previous year, albeit against a background of a sharp increase in cycling during the coronavirus lockdown. Official figures show the total distance cycled in 2020 was just over five billion miles: 46% higher than in 2019.

Gallagher commented: “Statisticians might expect this increase of cyclist casualties at the same time as more people took to their bikes during lockdown, but 141 deaths is still 141 tragedies that could have been avoided.

“The DfT statistics also show that motor traffic was 21% lower in 2020 than in 2019. With traffic now returning to pre-pandemic levels, the need for safe cycling space is even more urgent.”

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please call Rob Kingston on 07880 424 912 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320 713

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. The latest statistics are published at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-annual-report-2020
  3. A factsheet focusing on pedal cyclist casualties is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-pedal-cyclist-factsheet-2020
  4. A breakdown of fatality rates by road type is given below:

    Cyclist fatality figures
  5. Between 2015 and 2020, 56% of cyclist fatalities occurred on rural roads, although only 29% of cyclist traffic was on these roads.
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