The Department for Transport has today published a summary of its 2012 Annual Report on Reported Road Casualties for Great Britain, a year in which 118 cyclists, 11 more than in 2011, lost their lives on the roads of England, Scotland and Wales.
That headline finding was announced earlier this year. Digging into the data there is one type of crash that seems to account for the increase, though it should be noted at this point that is impossible to assess trends properly without reference to total distance ridden and there are no reliable national figures.
In 2011, five cyclists were killed in crashes that included as a contributory factor ‘cyclist entering road from pavement’. In 2012, that figure rose to 21.
Take those figures out of the death toll and you are left with a drop from 102 deaths in 2011 to 97 in 2012.
Given the relatively small number of deaths, the total of deaths and serious injuries (KSIs) can be a better indicator of a trend. For 'cyclists entering road from pavement' this dropped from 221 to 196. It therefore seems likely that the size of the increase in cyclist deaths between 2011 and 2012 is a statistical fluke.
However, the long-term trend is still toward more cyclist KSIs, a figure that has increased every year since 2005 and was up 4 percent between 2011 and 2012.
In this accompanying video, the DfT makes the point that 2012 was one of the wettest years on record and that the rate of cyclist deaths and serious injuries might have been even worse had the weather been better.
While the DfT has not yet published a comprehensive analysis of its data, some of the underlying tables are available.
Examining them throws up some more interesting information. Cyclists are often accused of riding carelessly, yet the data on contributory factors shows that the road users who make the most mistakes leading to crashes are light van and HGV drivers and motorcyclists. Only 36 percent of cyclist crashes had rider error as a factor, compared to 48, 46 and 44 percent for van drivers, motorcyclists and HGV drivers respectively. Those road users are all trained and licensed, of course, which makes the apparent lack of road sense here doubly surprising.
Failing to look properly - the ‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You’ or SMIDSY factor - remains the most common contributory factor in crashes, at 45 percent of all crashes and 451 fatalities. That’s been steadily increasing over the last few years, from 38 percent in 2008.
Overall, the trend in road safety is of continuing improvement. In 2012 there were 1,742 deaths on the roads, down from 8,000 in 1966, and that despite an increase in population and twice as many motor vehicles on the road.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.