How are cyclists most likely to die?

Nearly 90 cyclists were killed riding their bikes in England and Wales last year, fascinating to see this article in The Guardian about how you are most likely to have an issue whilst cycling?

Cycling commuter

Would you have guessed that 70 people died in England and Wales in 2014 from falling off a ladder? That 15 fell off a cliff and yet just one man died falling out of a tree last year? Five women died from “pain and other conditions associated with female genital organs and menstrual cycle”; nine people passed away from a “foreign body entering into or through eye or natural orifice”. The list of ways to die, detailed in Office for National Statistics (ONS) annual mortality data published, goes on.

But as a cyclist, I was most interested in looking at how cyclists died. The stats make sobering reading.

In 2014, 88 cyclists were killed riding their bikes on roads in England and Wales. That’s 73 men and 15 women. Why the gender imbalance? Mostly because more men still cycle than women. Census data from 2011 suggests men are twice as likely to commute to work by bike (3.9% of male workers compared with 1.6% of female workers). And in 2014, males of all ages made over three times as many cycle trips as females (28 to nine) according to the National Travel Survey.

Given the amount of media attention devoted to cyclist deaths by HGVs, particularly in London, it’s interesting to see that men, at least, are more likely to die just falling off their bikes than being hit by a truck: 20 male cyclists (and two female cyclists) died in a “non-collision transport incident”. That compares with 15 cyclists (nine men, six women) killed after “collision with heavy transport vehicle or bus”.

One man was killed on his bike when hit by a train; two men, both aged 65+, after “collision with pedestrian or animal”. Five men and one woman died following “collision with fixed or stationary object”.

Four pedestrians, all aged 70 or over, were killed after being hit by a cyclist, incidentally.

The ONS mortality statistics are based on details collected when deaths are certified and registered (unlike the Department for Transport stats, which show more deaths).

Fewer cyclists died in 2014 than 2013, according to the ONS, when 100 people died (89 men and 11 women) were killed while out on their bikes. With these relatively small numbers, it’s hard to say just using the ONS data whether our roads have become more dangerous, year-on-year.

But statistics released in September by the Department for Transport showed an upward trend in road casualties and in cyclists’ serious injuries. Serious injuries among all road users increased by 5% and by 8.2% among cyclists. With the exception of 2012-2013, the number of seriously injured cyclists has increased every year since a low of 2,174 in 2004, according to the pressure group CTC.


Three-quarters of Britons support more spending on bike use

Cycle funding

There is significant public demand for increased government spending to make cycling safer and more accessible, according to the biggest UK-wide survey on the subject, with three-quarters of people saying they supported such a move.

The study for Sustrans of 11,000 people in seven cities found 75% wanted more money to be spent on cycling measures. On average, people supported an annual spend per person of about £26 on cycling, against the current £4 figure for England.

The charity’s research found significant backing even among those who never ride a bike, with 71% saying they would support more bike-based spending. For frequent cyclists this figure rose to 87%.

Currently, about 1% to 2% of all trips in the UK are made by bike, as against figures of 25% or more in some nations, such as the Netherlands. Activists argue that more bike use would greatly help combat the ongoing health crisis caused by physical inactivity, as well as reducing vehicle pollution, among other benefits.

Jason Torrance, policy director at Sustrans said:

“The message from the public couldn’t be clearer: there’s a desire to cycle more, but that a lack of safe places to ride bikes is off ­putting.

“People want governments to spend more, and say that they would cycle more if it were safer. Now governments must close this gap between current spending and public demand.

“Physical inactivity, congestion and declining air quality cost our economy billions. Governments must act to secure a greater share of current transport investment for cycling and walking.”

The ICM research, which covered Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle, found people believed that of the £300 or so currently spent annually per person on transport, £26 should go to cycling.

Almost three quarters of people said they believed more cycling would benefit the nation overall, while two-thirds said it would make their local area a better place to live and work.

Sustrans’ research, called the Bike Life Survey, is intended to mirror a long-term study in Denmark, the Copenhagen Bicycle Account, which helps identify areas where new cycle cycle infrastructure is most in demand. Currently 45% of all school and work trips in the city are made by bike.

Police launch inquiries after sabotage at Wiggle cycling event in the New Forest


Police are carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the hunt for saboteurs who targeted a mass cycling event in Hampshire.

Lives were put at risk after nails were thrown along Braggers Lane, Bransgore, during the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, which attracted more than 2,000 entrants.  A total of 15 cyclists suffered punctures but police say no-one was injured.  Now officers are carrying out house-to-house inquiries in a bid to trace the culprits.

Bransgore Parish Council chairman Cllr Richard Frampton hit out at attempts to sabotage the ride and endanger the safety of riders.  He said:

“I know there’s been sensitivity over these events, partly because of the numbers, but there’s no excuse for anyone to take the law into their own hands.  If there are genuine concerns they should go through the proper channels and be looked at in the correct way.”

It follows a similar incident last year in which opponents placed drawing pins in the road.  Cllr Frampton said any genuine arguments against mass cycling events in the Forest were being undermined by people taking illegal action.

The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) said it was shocked to learn that nails had been left in the road.  An NPA spokesman said:

“There can be no justification for acts that may cause accident or injury.  The event was closely monitored and while we’ve heard reports that the behaviour of a minority of cyclists was unsatisfactory, the large majority behaved well and followed the New Forest Cycling Code, which encourages responsible cycling.”

The spokesman confirmed that a draft cycling charter for event organisers was being prepared and would be debated by the Cycling Liaison Group on April 29.

UK Cycling Events, organisers of the Wiggle event, have already introduced a number of changes ahead of the proposed new charter.  Director Martin Barden said:

“Our focus is delivering a safe, enjoyable cycling event which is considerate to locals. We’ve made considerable changes to ensure this happens including, a new venue, a new route, increased marshal presence and a reduction in the number of participants by more than 20 per cent.”

Dr Tony Hockley, chairman of the New Forest Equestrian Association, has been an outspoken critic of mass cycling events in the Forest.  But he took part in the weekend ride, saying he wanted to see for himself how cyclists affected the animals.  Last night Dr Hockley welcomed the decision to improve the route by removing Blissford Hill and some of the narrow country lanes from the event.  He added:

“I think it caused the usual problems given the size of the event, but I’m not aware of any significant events.  The route was better and the vast majority of cyclists behaved themselves, although I still think the numbers were too big for forest lanes.  I’d also like to see numbers on the backs of riders so that the few cyclists who spoil things can be identified.”

New cycle safety film illustrates a lorry driver’s perspective

Studies show that despite making up just 4% of London’s traffic, Heavy Goods Vehicles are involved in 43% of London cyclist deaths.

There is much that can be done to improve this shocking status quo; the freight industry is responding too, by trialling safety technology and lower cabs with improved visability, as seen recently at City Hall.

But cyclists must also take responsibility to keep themselves safe.  This is not to suggest that any of the recent deaths and serious injuries in London were the blame of the cyclists involved.  However you don’t have to stand for long at a junction in central London to see that there is a need for more people to understand about the dangers posed by lorries, and why it is a bad idea to cycle down the side of them; even if the bicycle lane and Advanced Stop Line invites you to do so.

Watch this video produced by Exchanging Places a scheme run by The Cycle Task Force of the Metthe Metropolitan Police which not only shows you the point of view of cyclists but also that of a lorry driver, and what operating one of these machines can be like.  With a little awareness raising, perhaps we can help to limit London’s cyclists exposure to danger, whilst we wait for our politicians and leaders to limit the source of it.


Cycling in Parliament

I’ve been a fan of the Cities fit for Cycling campaign, and so it was good to see that 100 MPs turned up to the debate, with support given to the Get Britain Cycling report.

The debate ended with an unopposed vote in favour of the motion:

“That this House supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being made by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling.”

But as the CTC put it: “Unfortunately the vote is not binding on the Government!”

Downing Street rejects Sir Chris Hoy’s cycle champion offer

Sir Chris Hoy

Reported in The Times, the government have turned down Sir Chris Hoy’s offer to become a national cycling tzar.  A government spokesman commented, “Sir Chris is completely unsuitable as he has a long track record of delivery and success at a world-class level, and this is not aligned with our ambitions for cycling”.

The demand for a senior figure to promote cycling is a core demand in The Times’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign and a key recommendation in the Get Britain Cycling report, which was debated in Parliament last week.

A Downing Street spokesman said yesterday that they “warmly welcome” Sir Chris’s desire to get “more people cycling more safely and more often”, but added that they “don’t have any current plans to appoint a national cycling champion”.

Martin Gibbs, policy director at British Cycling, said: “Be it Sir Chris Hoy, Chris Boardman, or someone else who really understands what has to happen to transform our roads, the Government needs someone with the power to champion cycling and ensure an integrated approach across departments.

Cyclists make up a quarter of London vehicles, says TfL

Laura Laker reports on how Cyclists make up a quarter of London vehicles, says TfL:

A mass census of cyclists in London shows that the bicycle is no longer the transport of the minority

Cyclists make up an incredible 24% of vehicles in London’s morning rush hour, according to Transport for London (TfL) figures .

The arresting statistic formed from a mass census of cyclists in London – apparently the biggest of its kind to date – is adding weight to campaigners’ and cycling proponents’ arguments that the bicycle is no longer the transport of the minority, and that we need to take the bicycle seriously as a means of mass transport.

The numbers on some headline routes are perhaps not surprising to anyone who has squashed in with scores of cyclists at the traffic lights in London’s morning rush hour, though they do make previous cycling targets look shamefully unambitious.

At Theobalds Road near Holborn, bikes were 64% of all vehicles heading west, while Elephant and Castle, one of London’s most notoriously frightening roundabouts for cyclists (which Boris Johnson once said was “fine” for cyclists) saw 903 cyclists per hour head north to the city centre between 7am and 9am.

Unsurprisingly, the bridges score well (they are the only way for cyclists to cross the river). London Bridge, for example, averaged 660 bikes an hour over the whole day (6am to 8pm), or 47% of vehicles. In Amsterdam, meanwhile, 60% of inner city traffic is bikes.

And yet spending on cycling in London is still a tiny portion of the transport budget.

London’s new cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, told the Guardian: “Cycling is clearly a mass mode of transport in central London and until now it hasn’t been treated as such.

“Nearly all provision for cycling is based on the presumption that hardly anyone cycles, that you can make do with shoving cyclists to the side of the road and that just clearly is wrong.

Since Johnson’s cycling vision was launched in March, there have been fears that the proposed £913m funding for cycling will suffer at the hands of George Osborne’s spending review, due tomorrow.

Gilligan remains optimistic, however, and says although the money is a lot more than previously spent on cycling, it’s not a lot compared to TfL’s overall budget. As Sir Peter Hendy, TfL’s transport commissioner, noted at the cycling vision’s City Hall launch, we get more for our money from cycling infrastructure than for other mass transport systems. He wants to make cycling “one of his highest priorities”.

As campaigners point out, urban cycling is still dominated by a minority. The next goal is surely to get everyone else on a bike.

The London Cycling Campaign’s chief executive, Dr Ashok Sinha, said:

“The latest cycling figures from TfL simply underline that, given the right circumstances, a large proportion of London’s population would opt to cycle to work.

“The ultimate goal must be to enable people of all ages and backgrounds to feel safe enough to cycle for everyday local journeys, not just commuters. The good news is that Boris Johnson gets this and understands that investing in cycling saves money in the long run. That’s why he must resolutely defend his impressive new cycling programme from impending Treasury cuts.”If this many people can get on their bikes in London’s cramped, crowded streets, it seems the sky’s the limit. Perhaps Norman Baker was hasty in saying we’ll never be like the Netherlands.