Provisional figures from the Department for Transport suggest that, while the number of people killed or injured on the UK's roads has gone down over the past year, there's actually been a rise in cycling casualties.
While this may suggest that the roads are becoming more dangerous, it's actually more likely to be due to a significant rise in the number of people riding bikes, whether as a result of the recession or official efforts to promote cycling for health and transport.
Overall, casualties were down by three percent, with the number of people killed or seriously injured down seven percent and the number of deaths down 19 percent. But among cyclists, casualties were up four percent, with the number of riders killed or seriously injured up one percent.
The figures suggest 2,700 cyclists were killed or injured in the year to the end of June 2010, compared with 2,673 in the previous 12 months. Deaths and serious injuries seem particularly high in the past quarter, with reports of a five percent increase.
While a comparison with figures for the mid-1990s shows a welcome improvement in the longer term – the average then was 3,732 cyclists killed or seriously injured each year – it still doesn’t compare well with the changes for motorists. Cycling casualties have dropped by 28 percent but the number of car users killed or seriously injured has fallen by 55 percent.
This may in part be attributable to the fact that there are now more cyclists on the roads. While overall road usage has fallen by nearly one percent in the past year, UK cyclists' organisation CTC has reported six percent annual growth in cycle use. It should also be noted that these are provisional figures, so it may be too early to draw any conclusions.
The trend over the past few years has been for a drop in cycling fatalities. The average number of cyclists killed per year in the mid-1990s was 186. In 2007 it was 136, 115 in 2008 and 104 in 2009, according to the DfT report Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2009.
Roger Geffen, CTC's campaigns director, said, “The Government needs to develop policies which encourage more and safer cycling, recognising that cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are. The way it measures cycle safety needs to reflect this, so that if cycle casualties increase slightly but cycle use grows steeply, this is seen as good news, as this means cycling has got safer, as well as delivering health, environmental and other benefits.”