Spotlight on Government as UK cycling casualties rise

Wrong that vulnerable road users still at risk say Sustrans

The latest annual casualty figures from the UK Department for Transport show an increase of 9% in cyclist deaths and serious injuries (rising from 2950 to 3210) in the past 12 months.

In the Department's own words: 'In general, there have been year-on-year increases in deaths and serious injuries of vulnerable road users (i.e. those who are not occupants of cars or other vehicles).

"Conversely, deaths and serious injuries of less vulnerable road users (occupants of cars and other vehicles) fell by 5 per cent in the year ending June 2012, compared with the previous 12 months."

As the graph below shows, little impact has been made on cyclist KSI (killed and seriously injured) numbers over the past decade. The annual figure has recently well and truly breached the 3,000 mark (for the decade it averaged almost exactly 2,500). In contrast KSI figures for car users have fallen dramatically over the past 10 years.

There was a tiny bit of consolation for cyclists with the news that the quarterly figures for April-June 2012 showed a small drop in vulnerable road user categories. However, it has been suggested this has been due to the unseasonably wet weather over that time keeping cyclist numbers down. In any event this short-term analysis of figures can do little to hide the fact the long term annual trends don't make happy reading for those on two wheels or pedestrians.   

Not surprisingly a government that had previously offered warm words of support for The Times' Cities Fit For Cycling campaign has come under fire over the figures.

Sustrans policy advisor Joe Williams said: "Yesterday the Minister said the government would do what it takes to make our roads safer for cyclists (referring to new Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond speaking at a parliamentary cycle safety event - Ed.). These figures provide a stark reminder that there is much more to do. It’s simply not right that the most vulnerable users are at an increasing risk on our roads. We hope that the Minister is preparing to turn his words into action and we look forward to working with him to make our streets safer for everyone."

Even car lobby group the Institute of Advanced Motorists expressed concern at the figures: "We shouldn’t rely on a few months of dodgy weather to get cyclists and motorcyclists casualties down (referring to the small quarterly drop in casualties) ... Upgrading roads, targeted safety campaigns and measures to improve road user awareness among new drivers are needed too."

Elsewhere London Assembly Green Party Member Jenny Jones sent out a strongly worded news release under the heading Road Safety Funding Cut as Casualties Rise.

This pointed out "The amount of money spent in London on road safety measures is a quarter of what it was when the current Mayor took office. It has dropped from £59m in 2008/09 to £23m this financial year. The number of pedestrians and cyclists injured has risen each year since 2008."

Whilst it may be argued that the rise in cyclist casualties over recent years may simply reflect a greater number of cyclists taking to the road, the comparison with cars is again telling; car KSIs have fallen steadily over the last decade despite a rise then a drop in motorised road usage over the same period.

The question surely needs addressing by those in government; why can't we set cyclist KSIs on the same downward path as car equivalents?

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