Two reports just published by the Department for Transport have analysed the latest changes in traffic volumes and road casualty numbers in Great Britain.
For the first time since 1949, overall road traffic levels have fallen in two consecutive years, the total for 2009 being 313.2 billion vehicle miles, down by 3.0 billion from the previous year. While car miles reduced by only 0.3 percent, light van miles fell by 2.2 per cent and heavy goods vehicle traffic was down 8.2 percent.
Against this, cycling was on the up. The 2009 road usage figure for cyclists weighed in at 3.1 billion miles, an increase of around five percent on the 2.9 billion miles cycled in 2008. A corresponding five percent rise in cyclist casualties did actually include a fall in the number of fatalities, down from 115 in 2008 to 104 in 2009.
The number of cyclists seriously injured rose by six percent to 2606. Total cyclist casualties were 17,064, and while this showed a five percent increase, the under 18s showed a three percent fall – their adult counterparts showing a seven percent increase, and over 60s an even higher eight percent rise. Out of all user groups – including pedestrians, motorcyclists and vehicle occupants – adult cyclists were the only ones to show an increased overall casualty rate.
Chris Peck, policy officer at Cyclists Touring Club, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, said:
"While this rise in cycle casualties may seem a bad thing, there is no greater risk than previously, because levels of cycling have also gone up.
‘"n fact, the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling becomes. We know from countries and cities experiencing cycle growth that places with higher levels of cycling have a lower risk of injury from cycling. This is the Safety in Numbers principle, where more cyclists means drivers are more aware of cyclists, and are more likely to be cyclists themselves, so therefore more likely to understand how their driving may affect other road users.
"In addition, more people cycling leads to greater political will to improve conditions for cyclists."