Andrew Gilligan crazily argues cycling is getting safer in the Telegraph

Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph wrote a disturbing and crazy article, where he tries to argue that cycling is getting safer in London, and this “fact” is inconvenient to those who want to blame Boris Johnson.  But the statistics he uses don’t match his argument.

He starts off agreeing with many other cyclists:

“It’s certainly hard to think of any policy area where official interventions have been so inept … The vast majority of British cycle lanes are either totally pointless or actively dangerous.”

But he then goes on to say …

“As a 100-mile a week London cyclist myself, I travel every day through places where TfL should do more.  But ‘carnage’ there is not, to say that the deaths ‘went up by 60 per cent’ last year, as various bloggers and journalists keep doing, is narrowly right – but broadly misleading.”

I find this a bizarre statement, over 27,000 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the UK over the last decade.  To me that seems quite serious, road collisions are the leading cause of death for young people, and cycling is the second most dangerous mode of road transport, after motorcycling.  Nationally, at a time when the overall casualty rate for road transport is going down, the rate for cycling is going up.  How is that not cause for concern?

He then goes on to argue that:

“Allowing for the rising number of trips, the trend [in serious injuries per 100,000 trips] is, as you can see, clearly down.”

But the figures he uses are as follows:

  • 2002 0.36
  • 2003 0.36
  • 2004 0.28
  • 2005 0.25
  • 2006 0.24
  • 2007 0.29
  • 2008 0.27
  • 2009 0.24
  • 2010 0.26

In one sense there is a downward trend, but from 2007 onwards it seems highly unpredictable with the figures going up and down in what appears a random way.

This figure is a casualty rate per trip which in the context of rising trip numbers means that in that time the number of deaths and serious casualties has climbed from 340 to 467.  If those trends continue, it’s likely that one in three people killed or seriously injured in London in 2025 will have been riding a bike. Would that qualify as ‘carnage’?


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