In 2019, 16,884 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents, including 4,433 who were killed or seriously injured. These figures only include cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police. Many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police, even when the cyclist is inured badly enough to be taken to hospital.
The figures also exclude cycling accidents that occur away from the road. Although the number of deaths is accurate, there could be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured.
Cyclist casualties, 2019 1
*All includes casualties where age was not recorded
Do higher cycling rates mean more cyclist fatalities?
In 2019, 100 pedal cyclists were killed, 4,333 seriously injured and 12,451 slightly injured in Great Britain. Although car occupants account for the greatest number of casualties each year, this is unsurprising as cars account for 80% of traffic on Britain’s roads. By looking at casualty rates in terms of the number of casualties per mile travelled, pedal cyclists fall into the ‘vulnerable road users’ category, along with pedestrians and motorcyclists, who have much higher casualty rates per mile travelled than other road users.
It might be assumed that if the number of pedal cyclists on the road rise, the number of cyclist casualties will rise too. However, research has revealed a ‘safety in numbers’ argument that suggests that this may not be the case.
The safety in numbers approach states that in a mixed traffic environment, the balance of different types of road users can affect the relative risk of injury to individuals, suggesting that if more people cycle; the roads will become less risky for cyclists.
The concept of safety in numbers is not new. It was first demonstrated by Smeed in 1949 with regard to motor vehicles. Smeed argued that data from 62 countries indicated that the number of road fatalities per vehicle was lower in countries with more driving. This concept is now also being applied to cycling. Research by Jacobsen (2003) suggests that when more cyclists are on the road, there are fewer collisions, with data indicating that this is the case in The Netherlands, California and Denmark.
DfT (2019) 'Table RAS30001: Reported casualties by road user type, age and severity, Great Britain, 2019'