Big increase in UK cyclist casualties

Over 10% rise in killed or seriously injured last year

Recent UK government figures report a yearly rise from 2,661 cyclists killed or seriously injured to 2,940 - a rise of 10.5 percent.

While all other categories of road user have seen a fall in the number of casualties for the 12 months ending March 2011 as against the preceding 12 months, estimates from the Department for Transport suggest cyclists are bucking the overall trend towards safer roads.

The problem looks even more dramatic if the killed or seriously injured figures for just the first quarter of 2011 are compared to the same period of 2010 - this comes out at a staggering 36 percent increase.

The fact that it comes against a fall in motorised road traffic - something that logic suggests might make the roads safer for cyclists - has led the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust to ask Government to look at compulsory cycle helmet wearing for children. This was backed in Parliament by Liberal Democrat MP Annette Brooke recently.

Commenting on the recent figures CTC's Campaigns Director, Roger Geffen, said: “Despite the extended periods of ice and snow, cycling is still growing. However, casualties remain high, and there are many areas where Britain is falling farther behind our European counterparts in providing for cycling. We still have only a tiny fraction of our residential streets covered by 20mph while hostile roads, bad driving, and weak law enforcement remain serious barriers to getting more people cycling.

On the subject of helmet compulsion he said, “Cycle helmets can only be designed for minor knocks and bumps, not being hit by fast traffic. What’s more, any limited protection they may provide in a collision could well be outweighed by the increased risks of having a collision in the first place.  Recent evidence indicates that cyclists who wear helmets are 14 percent more likely to have a collision per mile cycled than those without, and are more likely to suffer neck injuries.  Meanwhile, increases in helmet use have never been linked with lower cycle casualty rates.” 

Caution is needed when looking at a snapshot of statistics over a relatively small period. The crucial figure required when looking at accident figures is the rate per unit of passenger travel (ie per mile or per km) – a figure not included in the latest government stats.

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