Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Increased cycle casualities due to increase in cycling, says DfT's Norman Baker, and suggests "trixi mirrors" might improve safety

Minister of Transport Norman Baker said today that increased cycle casualties on Britain's roads may be due to increased rates of cycling - and suggested measures to improve visibility for truck drivers at traffic lights might help.

Mr Baker, UK's Regional and Local Transport Minister, said: “We take the issue of cycle safety extremely seriously and are working to reduce the instances of death and serious injuries of cyclists on our roads.

“The year-on-year rise in the number of cyclists killed and injured may be due to the increase in cycling we have seen in recent years."

Mr Baker was responding to Department for Transport data released last week that showed cycle casualties increased by 10% in 2011 compared to 2010.

The DfT has not published statistics showing increase in cycling for the period to March 2011. Rather, 2010 statistics say that cycle casualties rose by 1%, and cycle use rose by 1% in 2009-10 - supporting the Minister's claim that increased cycle causalities were due to increased cycling:
The number of pedal cyclists killed increased by 7 per cent from 104 in 2009 to 111 in 2010. The number seriously injured in accidents reported to the police increased by 2 per cent to 2,660. Total reported casualties among pedal cyclists also rose, by 1 per cent, compared to 2009. Pedal cyclist traffic levels are estimated to have risen by 1 per cent over the same period. (Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Main Results 201030 June 2011)
Minister Baker is right about the long term trend. From 2000 to 2010, there has been a 23% increase in the number of miles cycled annually from 2.6bn to 3.1bn miles. (DfT Table TRA0101 Road traffic (vehicle miles) by vehicle type).

In the same period, 2000 - 2010, reported cycle casualties per billion miles fell by 30%, from 7,900 to 5,500 casualties per billion miles cycled. (DfT: Reported casualty rates: by road user type and severity Great Britain: 2000-2010).

To put this another way: for every million miles cycled, the average cyclist might expect to have accidents resulting in injury 5.5 times. If we say, for example, that average journey distance was 3 miles, I make that, erm, one accident per 60,600 journeys. If you did around two cycle trips a day, that would take a round 100 years.

In the short term, though, there was a surge in cyclist deaths. UK cyclist organisation CTC reported on 30 June a 10% increase in cycle deaths per billion miles in 2010. Maybe this is a statistical blip - and some have blamed the severe winter. "Cycle casualty numbers not reducing fast enough" 

Trixi mirror - Guardian
Norman Baker added: “We want to see more innovative measures being put in place to improve cycle safety and we have authorised a trial of trixi mirrors in London which, if successful, could be used elsewhere in the country to make cyclists more visible to drivers.”

Trixi mirrors were first suggested in 2009, when when the Guardian reported on Boris Johnsons idea of visibility mirrors at traffic lights, and quoted Transport for London's suggestion that visibility problems with large lorries are causing most of the cycle casualties:
"Of the 15 cyclists who died on the capital's roads last year, nine were killed in collisions with lorries. In most cases the lorry was turning left and the driver failed to see the cyclist on their inside, according to TfL. The proposed mirror would give the driver, who will be looking at the traffic signals as they wait for the lights to change, a clear view of anyone between the lorry and the kerb, or those just below the front of their vehicle." (Guardian 16 June 2009)

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