The number of cyclists killed on Great Britain’s roads in 2015 was the lowest since records began according to the latest figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT).
In its Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2015 report, the DfT says that 100 cyclists lost their lives as a result of road traffic collisions during 2015, a 12 per cent fall on the previous year, and down 10 per cent on the 2010-14 average.
It adds that in the decade since 2005, a year in which 148 people on bikes were killed, fatalities have dropped by 32 per cent, with most of that fall occurring in the first five years of the period.
At 3,239, the number of cyclists seriously injured, however, while 5 per cent below the 2014 figure, was up 4 per cent on the annual average between 2010 and 2014.
A further 15,505 cyclists were slightly injured last year, down 13 per cent on 2014 and 3 per cent on the 2010-14 average.
Year-on-year fluctuations are not of course indicative of long-term trends especially where, in terms of fatalities, there is such a small sample size, and account also needs to be taken of total distance travelled, something that is notoriously difficult to quantify when it comes to cyclists.
Advances in trauma surgery are a possible explanation behind why deaths are falling but serious injuries rising, with some seriously injured riders now surviving injuries that may have resulted in loss of life a few years ago - but the poorer weather in 2015 compared to the previous 12 months is also likely to have been a factor.
Some 3.2 billion vehicle miles were undertaken on bicycles during 2015, 6 per cent down on the previous year, but 3 per cent above the 2010-14 average.
The DfT said: “Rather than the decrease in cyclist casualties in 2015 reflecting an improvement in road safety, it might relate more to exposure.
“Pedal cycling traffic rose by 10 per cent between 2013 and 2014 (although this is a revision to the original estimate of 4 per cent).”
It added: “2014 was a very warm year, particularly during spring and autumn.
“As temperatures rise, more cyclists tend to use the roads. Therefore it is likely that good weather in 2014 led to a large spike in cycling and a related increase in casualties.
“As 2015 was not as warm (particularly during the periods of the year where cycling is more common), cycling traffic has reverted to a level that would be more expected and casualties have followed.”
The total number of people killed on Britain’s roads, and the number seriously injured, each fell by 3 per cent against 2014 – standing respectively at 1,730, the second lowest since records began, and 22,144.
The DfT said that in terms of total deaths on the roads, “there is no clear upwards or downwards pattern between the years” since 2010.
The only logical conclusion for this is that there is no net change in road safety specifically relating to road deaths in Britain at the moment,” it added.
This does not mean that nothing at all is changing. It is possible that interventions and improvements (eg in vehicle technology or medical care) are saving more lives, yet these savings are being offset elsewhere – for instance, in the increase in traffic volumes, or in more vulnerable road users.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.