Philip Pank Transport Correspondent
Last updated at 5:10PM, September 27 2012
Source: The Times
Cycling became more dangerous last year, when the rate of cyclists killed and seriously injured rose sharply, official figures showed today.
The rate of cyclists killed and seriously injured measured as a proportion of distance travelled rose by 9 per cent in 2011. It was the third consecutive year in which the rate of death and serious injury amongst cyclists had increased.
The data undermined Government claims that it is becoming ever-more safe to cycle as increased numbers of cyclists take to the roads in Britain. The figures also provoked calls for an urgent inquiry into the apparent decline of road safety.
Analysis of official figures released by the Department for Transport also suggest that commuters who ride their bikes to work face an increased danger, as the casualty toll at rush hour rose by 10 per cent last year.
Campaigners said that roads and cycle lanes must be rebuilt to protect cyclists, echoing this newspaper’s Cities fit for Cycling campaign, which is calling for an overhaul of infrastructure and training.
Robert Gifford, Executive Director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “From a policy perspective, what we want to see is more people cycling more safely. However, the rate of cycling injuries per distance travelled increased by 9 per cent. So, what we are now seeing is more people cycling in more danger. That is nowhere near a desirable outcome.”
He added: “Both central and local government need to do far more to make our infrastructure more suited to cycling with dedicated cycle lanes where appropriate, better signed advance stop lines and campaigns aimed at getting car drivers to look out for cyclists.”
Edmund King, President of the AA, called for a thorough investigation of the causes behind the rising rate of deaths and serious injuries so that effective counter-measures can be put in place. He suggested that a dramatic decline in the number of traffic police might be partly to blame. “I think it is worrying, I think it calls for a review to try and bottom out why the rate would be increasing. Perhaps with a new Transport Secretary and a new Road Safety Minister this is something that can be looked at as a priority,” Mr King said.
Annual road casualty statistics showed that overall cyclist casualties reported to the police rose by 12 per cent between 2010 and 2011. While the number of fatalities fell by 4 per cent to 104, the number of cyclists who were seriously injured rose by 16 per cent to 3,085 last year. The number of serious injuries has increased every year since 2004.
Officials have consistently argued that this is because more people are cycling. However, the number of cyclists rose by just 2 per cent in 2011. The number of killed and seriously injured pedal cyclists per billion vehicle miles rose by 9 per cent from 2010.
Many people assume that female cyclists face the greatest danger on the roads. However, the data showed that 81 per cent of reported cycle casualties and 77 per cent of fatalities were male. Men aged 16–59 accounted for 62 per cent of casualties and 54 per cent of fatalities.
“These figures should be sounding the alarm right at the top of Government,” said Joe Williams, policy adviser at Sustrans charity.
The number of pedestrians killed and seriously injured rose by 5 per cent. The total number of people killed on the roads rose for the first time in eight years, increasing by 3 per cent to 1,901. The number of children killed rose by 9 per cent to 60.
“While we appreciate that the Government has tough funding decisions to make, we must now do more to arrest and reverse the number of people being killed or hurt on our roads,” said Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. He and other safety campaigners urged ministers to drop plans to increase motorway speed limits to 80mph and to reintroduce casualty reduction targets dropped by the Coalition.
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: “Cycling safety is a top priority and any death or injury on our roads is one too many. We are fully aware that, unfortunately, cyclist casualties increased last year against a backdrop of increased levels of cycling.”
He cited an advertising campaign launched this month, £30 million of Government money to tackle the most dangerous junctions and the relaxation of restrictions governing 20mph speed limits and roadside mirrors as evidence that the Government is trying to reduce casualties.
“We will continue to work with our partners, including the Times, to do everything possible to improve cycling safety,” Mr Hammond said.