A car insurance company claims accidents involving cyclists have rocketed as the credit crunch has led to a surge in inexperienced riders taking to the roads.
The allegation was swiftly denied by UK cycling organisation CTC, which dismissed the Liverpool Victoria Insurance Companys' (LV) findings as "Mickey Mouse research".
LV said 2.7 million extra cyclists had taken to the roads in the past year as the recession began to bite, meaning 43 percent of adults now cycle. But the latest data from the Office for National Statistics suggests only 19 percent ride their bikes.
The insurance company cited statistics supposedly showing that British cyclists were "ignorant of basic road rules” and said there had been a 29 percent increase in road accidents involving bikes in the past six months, with some 150,000 cyclists involved in crashes.
CTC said the accident rate quoted was something like nine times higher than official figures. Police data shows there were only 16,208 reported cycle casualties (most of them slight) in the year to June 2008 – a two percent reduction on the previous year.
LV declared that "64 percent of Brits would like to see adult cycling proficiency tests become compulsory". CTC said illegal behaviour by drivers was far more likely to cause death or serious injury than bad cycling. In a statement, it said: "Singling out cyclists as a law-breaking group is discriminatory and serves only to create aggression and conflict between road users."
Roger Geffen, CTC’s campaigns and policy manager, said: “This is Mickey Mouse research and flies in the face of all official published statistics on cycling. There is plenty of evidence showing that cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are.
"In London there has been a 91 percent increase in cycle use on the capital’s main roads since 2000 and a 33 percent reduction in cycle casualties in roughly the same period.”
He added: “CTC has been researching cycle safety for over a century. Manipulating statistics for a PR stunt wastes the time of the people who took part in the survey. By demonising cyclists and scaring people into staying in their cars, it also undermines the efforts of charities like CTC to encourage more cycling and improve road safety for all.”