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Highway Code updates, low traffic neighbourhoods, and 20mph zones behind cyclist fatalities falling to lowest number in 30 years, says Cycling UK

“These figures prove the tragic death toll on our roads isn’t inevitable. They show the government could save hundreds of lives by taking more action to reduce road danger,” the charity claims

Cycling UK has claimed that an increasing number of road safety measures, including the introduction of liveable neighbourhoods, 20mph zones, and last year’s updates to the Highway Code, are behind the recent fall in cyclist fatalities on British roads.

According to provisional road casualty figures published by the Department for Transport, 85 people were killed while riding their bikes in Great Britain in 2022, the lowest number of fatalities since 1993, a drop attributed by the active travel charity to measures introduced since the Covid-19 pandemic to make the UK’s roads safer.

However, Cycling UK has insisted that more government action and investment is needed to ensure that the 2022 statistics “mark the beginning of a longer-term trend in road casualties for people cycling” and don’t simply become a “statistical anomaly”.

> “A backward move” – Government slashes active travel budget for England

New analysis from the cycling charity has found that the number of people killed while cycling in England, Scotland, and Wales, per billion miles, also fell by almost a quarter compared to the immediate pre-pandemic years.

Published yesterday, the Department for Transport’s road traffic estimates show that the number of miles travelled by people cycling in 2022 totalled 3.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from the average of 3.5 billion miles a year recorded between 2015 and 2019.

Meanwhile, the 85 cyclists killed in 2022 also represent a 15 percent reduction from an average of 100 fatalities a year during that same pre-pandemic period.

Cycling UK has used these statistics to calculate the rate of people killed while cycling per billion miles travelled – the best method, it says, of ascertaining whether the roads are becoming safer. According to this analysis, 22 cyclists were killed per billion miles cycled in 2022, compared to an average of 29 in 2015-2019 (a 24 percent reduction), and 27 and 26 in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Notably, the DfT’s figures also show that the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads fell considerably in 2022. While over 4,400 people were killed or seriously injured while cycling every year between 2015 and 2021, this number dropped to 4,146 in 2022.

> Highway Code changes one year on: Confusion in communication has created the perfect storm and done little to improve safety for cyclists

Cycling UK believes that road safety measures introduced throughout 2021 and 2022 are part of the reason for the “significant decline” in cyclists killed or injured in Great Britain.

“These figures prove the tragic death toll on our roads isn’t inevitable,” Cycling UK’s chief executive Sarah Mitchell says. “They show the government could save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of devastating injuries by taking more action to reduce road danger.

“Proving cause and effect is always difficult, but over the last two years a number of measures have been introduced to make roads safer, such as an updated Highway Code, wider roll out of 20mph zones, and interventions to reduce through traffic in residential areas. It is likely a combination of these contributed to last year’s reduction in cyclist deaths.”

However, with the Department for Transport currently under scrutiny for its failure to deliver its active travel targets, and with cycling and walking schemes threatened by proposed government cuts, Mitchell argues that more needs to be done to protect cycling infrastructure and save lives.

“Despite making up less than two percent of all non-motorway traffic on our roads, people cycling are still over-represented in the fatalities and injuries on our roads,” she says.

“Action can make a difference, which is why Cycling UK wants to see the government reverse cuts to cycling and walking infrastructure investment. This infrastructure keeps people safe and saves lives, but the cuts threaten to do exactly the opposite.”

> Cycling and walking targets “in tatters”: Damning report finds government almost certain to fail on active travel objectives in England

Last month, we reported that the government is facing a legal challenge from a campaign group over its decision to slash investment in walking and cycling in England, with lawyers acting on behalf of the Transport Action Network (TAN) writing to the DfT seeking a judicial review into the cuts.

TAN claims that the active travel budget cuts bypassed legal processes and risk undermining commitments related to air pollution and the climate emergency.

The cuts, announced in March, were slammed at the time as “a backward move” by the Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA), who estimated that two thirds of previously promised funding would be lost, making it “impossible” to meet Net Zero and active travel targets.

As pointed out in Parliament by SNP MP Gavin Newlands a month later, the slash to the active travel budget means that less than £1 per head will be spent in England outside of London, compared to £50 per head in Scotland.

Meanwhile, a damning report published in early June by the National Audit Office found that the Department for Transport is highly unlikely to achieve any of its four goals for active travel by 2025, prompting campaign groups to claim that the government’s plans to boost cycling and walking in England are “in tatters” thanks to years of “stop-start” funding.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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13 comments

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OldRidgeback | 9 months ago
5 likes

I still think a major benefit to cyclist safety would be making bikeability training a compulsory portion of the driving test. I'd also make it compulsory for anyone renewing a driving licence.. People unable to ride a bicycle would be offered the option of a tricycle or hand cycle. Only those so disabled as to be unable to use a hand cycle (a very small percentage) would be exempt and everyone else refusing to take this training would be refused a licence. 

To address road safety properly I think it's important to take a different approach and be pro active. Research shows us that drivers who also cycle (or ride a motorcycle) have a better awareness of road dangers.

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chrisonabike replied to OldRidgeback | 9 months ago
0 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:

I still think a major benefit to cyclist safety would be making bikeability training a compulsory portion of the driving test. I'd also make it compulsory for anyone renewing a driving licence.

It probably wouldn't hurt but I'm not sure you'd be able to tell the difference after. Where I grew up a lot of other kids did their cycling proficiency test (RoSPA was it?). I bet few cycle now and even fewer recall anything which would assist driving safely around cyclists.

OldRidgeback wrote:

To address road safety properly I think it's important to take a different approach and be pro active. Research shows us that drivers who also cycle (or ride a motorcycle) have a better awareness of road dangers.

This is also good and I'm all for "different approaches". Clearly those south of the border will really need one, what with the active travel budget cuts from "peanuts" to "chicken feed".

However why can't we just take a well-tested path* that has been shown to work? In several countries / places? (And not like "safety - by excluding those not in vehicles from large areas of public space").

Not many people *do* motorbike or cycle.
For cycling there are a collection of reasons keeping it that way. I think one of the most important is people don't feel it's safe, convenient or social to cycle. And "more driver training" or even "slightly higher chance of criminal drivers getting nicked and maybe even punished" won't change that.

* what works? For mass cycling: https://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2008/09/grid.html

For road safety with more of a focus on people, not just driving motor vehicles (including more "human factors"): https://sustainablesafety.nl/

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Lycra Lout replied to OldRidgeback | 9 months ago
2 likes

Most people are regular pedestrians, yet that doesn't stop them showing aggressive behaviour against them and pedestrian deaths increasing because of more dangerous cars and roads.

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wtjs replied to OldRidgeback | 9 months ago
0 likes

I still think a major benefit to cyclist safety would be making bikeability training a compulsory portion of the driving test. I'd also make it compulsory for anyone renewing a driving licence.

I had to renew my licence - you want me to undergo 'bikeability training'? Furthermore, the drivers who most deserve 'training' would simply declare 'I'm a cyclist myself' and be excused. A non-starter.

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mattw replied to wtjs | 8 months ago
1 like

That sounds like a good reason for making it compulsory.

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chrisonabike replied to OldRidgeback | 9 months ago
0 likes

How about this kind of training throughout childhood, never mind just once per lifetime* as part of a driving test?

Utrecht Traffic Garden.

Again I think even that would likely make little difference unless we provide facilities and incentive for a large fraction of people to continue cycling from A to B in adulthood.

* Yeah we should make that a bit more frequent too!

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mattw replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
1 like

chrisonatrike wrote:

How about this kind of training throughout childhood, never mind just once per lifetime* as part of a driving test?

Utrecht Traffic Garden.

Again I think even that would likely make little difference unless we provide facilities and incentive for a large fraction of people to continue cycling from A to B in adulthood.

* Yeah we should make that a bit more frequent too!

There's one of those in Nottingham. Since 2017.

https://www.google.com/maps/@52.9337436,-1.1464639,87m/data=!3m1!1e3

And there was one in Rhyl in the 1970s.

 

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 8 months ago
0 likes

Good find.  Is it used by schools?  Think there have been a few dotted about the UK but I've never encountered one.  Wasn't a part of my schooling, although IIRC there was the RoSPA cycling proficiency scheme via primary school.

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mark1a replied to mattw | 8 months ago
1 like

There's one here locally at Weymouth Fire Station too. 
 

 

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IanMSpencer | 9 months ago
4 likes

Be interesting to separate out London from these figures.

London has seen significant increase in cycling but also massive investment in cycling infrastructure.

I suspect there are several factors working in concert improving the London situation, and the rest of the country is probably seeing very little improvement.

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OldRidgeback replied to IanMSpencer | 9 months ago
0 likes

It'd be interesting to look at the numbers of cyclist deaths in London and compare those with the stats of say 10 and 20 years ago. We know cyclist numbers increased 20 years ago when the congestion charge scheme was introduced and also following the terrorist bombings of 2005. The number of people cycling in London jumped again as pandemic restrictions were lifted. 

If cyclist deaths are lower now than say 20 years ago while cycle journeys have increased enormously, it shows a positive trend.

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NOtotheEU replied to IanMSpencer | 9 months ago
1 like

IanMSpencer wrote:

I suspect there are several factors working in concert improving the London situation, and the rest of the country is probably seeing very little improvement.

In Birmingham we've gone in the opposite direction in the last few months so I can't wait for 20mph limits and LTN's.

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
6 likes

Yet another story to be immediately ignored by the msm.  Of course, if it was the other way around, and cycling casualties had risen, they'd be all over it 24/7.

CUK is right, and the combination of measures taken to reduce car drivers slaughtering cyclists has worked, but since the Transport Secretary has announced his opposition to making roads safer for riders, it is hardly likely to continue.

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