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Cyclists the only road users for whom deaths rose in 2020 – but fatality rate fell by distance ridden

Department for Transport says that among all road users, cyclists saw biggest fall in casualties per billion km travelled

Cyclists were the only class of users of Great Britain’s roads for whom deaths rose during 2020, a year that in terms of transport saw huge changes in how people got around due to the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown imposed by governments across the UK to try and contain it.

In all, 141 cyclists lost their lives in England, Scotland and Wales during the year, up from 100 in 2019, according to Reported road casualties Great Britain, annual report: 2020, published today by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Meanwhile, deaths among car occupants, motorcyclists and pedestrians all registered year-on-year falls of at least 15 per cent.

Lockdowns imposed during the year resulted in a big fall in motor traffic, with schools and many workplaces shut or operating at reduced capacity for much of the year and a rise in people working from home.

At the same time there was a big rise in the proportion of people cycling, and as a report from the DfT last week revealed, average journey trips were also longer.

Total casualties of all severities among cyclists stood at 16,294 during 2020, down 3 per cent on 2020.

“Pedal cyclist traffic increased by 46 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, whereas all motor vehicle traffic decreased by 21 per cent,” the DfT said.

“Compared to other road users, pedal cyclist casualty rates saw a greater reduction of 34 per cent. This may be as a result of reduced motor vehicle traffic and increased pedal cyclist traffic.”

In a separate document on road user risk, the DfT noted that “the number of pedal cyclist fatalities was notably high during 2020, with a large increase in cycling following the Covid-19 lockdown from March.

“Together the ‘vulnerable road users’ accounted for over half of fatalities in 2020 (pedestrians 24 per cent, motorcyclists 20 per cent and pedal cyclists 10 per cent).”

Also published today by the DfT was a pedal cycle factsheet covering the period 2015-20, with key findings as follows:

an average of two pedal cyclists died and 83 were seriously injured per week in reported road casualties

a majority of pedal cycle fatalities (59 per cent) do not occur at or within 20 metres of a junction compared to 32 per cent of all seriously injured casualties

almost half (46 per cent) of pedal cycle fatalities in 2 vehicle accidents involved a car

56 per cent of pedal cycle fatalities occurred on rural roads compared to 29 per cent of traffic

83% of pedal cycle killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties were male.

The same document also revealed that nearly half of cyclists killed or seriously injured from 2015-19 were men aged between 30 and 59, making up 46 per cent of casualties.

Over the same time span, 98 cyclists lost their lives in a crash with no other vehicle involved, but where there was another vehicle, it was most likely to be a single car, accounting for 298 deaths for 55 per cent of such crashes.

HGVs were involved in 92 cyclist deaths from 2015-20, with collisions involving that type of vehicle far more likely to result in the rider being killed, at 6.1 per cent of total casualties in such crashes, compared to 0.4 per cent for those involving cars.

The DfT has also launched an interactive dashboard which enables users to quickly find details of casualties and which can be filtered according to severity, sex and road user type, among other parameters. Currently, the website has data for 2017-19.

It also has interactive maps which can be drilled down to police force or local authority areas, including as far as London borough level, and which enable year-on-year comparisons to be made and again can by filtered according to selected criteria.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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