Rise in cycling injuries prompts call for action

Report shows UK road safety getting worse

A House of Commons Transport Committee report published today shows an annual rise in road fatalities since 2003. The report singles out cycle safety as a particular concern: “We have found particular issue in casualty rates for young drivers and cyclists.”

Road fatalities were up 3 percent from 2010 to 2011 and killed and seriously injured figures (KSIs) up 2 percent - the latter the first annual increase since 1994. In 2011, 3085 cyclists were killed or seriously injured – a rise of 15% compared to 2010. 

 “These casualty figures should be a wake-up call for the Government to step up and provide stronger leadership in the road safety field,” the report concluded.

There’s no clear reason for the 15% jump in cycling KSIs but the report mentions a rise in cycling levels as a possible factor.

The report outlines possible ways of improving cyclists' safety on UK roads:

* Leadership - lack of it (on cycle policy as in other areas) was a fundamental criticism running through the report. Despite £45 million worth of recent money for cycling initiatives the report noted “...there is little detail available on the projects to which this money is allocated.”

* Training - whilst £11 million is currently spent on cycle training in schools there is a relative absence of training for adults who wish to discover or rediscover cycling.

* HGVs are involved in 20% of collisions where cyclists are killed. The report seemed ambivalent on whether mandatory sensor fitting to lorries would help or be counter-productive, in effect giving HGV drivers too much to do (“a risk that sensors create an additional input” in the words of the Road Haulage Association).    

* Driver Training - the possibility of a cyclist / pedestrian safety module in the driving test was mooted.

* Infrastructure - the report quoted the editor of The Times which is running a cycle safety campaign; “At the moment our cities are not fit for cyclists.” A lack of joined up thinking between departments and central and local government was also highlighted as a reason for very poor infrastructure.

* The Times Campaign – “We consider the points contained in its manifesto provide a roadmap for how cycle safety can be improved. Given the Prime Minister’s support for The Times cycle campaign, we recommend that the department issue a formal response to each of its eight points showing how they are being addressed and, if a point is not being acted on, what alternative action is being taken to address the matter.”

Cycling bodies respond

Sustrans, the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) and British Cycling used the report to reinforce their own messages to government as to what would radically improve cycle safety.

“If the Government is serious about making our roads safer it must show clear leadership. A great start would be to reduce our default residential speed limit from 30 to 20 miles per hour, which will make our communities safer for everyone,” said Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd.

CTC's official press release response stated: “CTC has attributed the deterioration in road safety for all transport modes to a decline in road traffic policing and the consequence of the Government’s rhetoric of ‘ending the war on the motorist’.”

Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns Director added: “What is really needed is a concerted, properly funded action plan to get councils, police forces and the freight industry pulling together to reduce traffic speeds, ensure cycle-friendly design for all roads and junctions and reduce the threats from lorries.  Police forces must give the safety of pedestrians and cyclists the priority it deserves.'”

Official CTC blogger Chris Peck suggested that the unusual weather patterns of 2010 and 2011 may have played a part.

On British Cycling’s part, their Policy and Legal Affairs Director Martin Gibbs said: “We share the Committee’s concern about road casualties and we agree with them that the government should step up and provide stronger leadership on road safety. People’s right to travel safely is too important to be subject to a post code lottery with road safety varying widely between local authorities.”

British Cycling also backed the report’s recommendation that the DfT respond to the eight points of The Times' Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. 

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