Cycling safety

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Cycling safety

Is cycling a great way to get fit and save money on transport costs, or an increasingly dangerous pastime?

Cycling safety hit the headlines in November 2013 after a spate of cyclist deaths occurred in London over a two-week period and led to a range of claims and counter claims on safety.

This Behind the Headlines special report looks at key topics on cycling safety and seeks to answer these and other questions:

•Has cycling become more dangerous?

•Are women more at risk of accidental death than men?

•Are HGVs the biggest risk to cyclists?

•Are there such things as cycle accident hotspots? •Can I lower my risk?

•Is London a particularly dangerous place to cycle? •Do helmets improve cycling safety?

•Do the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks? Has cycling become more dangerous?

It depends what you mean by dangerous.

The most authoritative data on cycling safety and accidents is provided by the Department for Transport (DfT).

According to the latest figures in the UK:

•118 cyclists were killed (one every three days)

•3,222 were seriously injured (almost nine a day)

•15,751 were slightly injured (43 a day)

These figures are based on incidents reported to the police, so the true figure for cyclists being slightly injured is likely to be much higher.

Serious injuries are defined as an injury resulting in prolonged hospitalisation and/or significant disability. The key measure used by experts to judge cycle safety is “killed or seriously injured”, which is sometimes shortened to KSI.

Trends in cycling safety data

There has been a rise in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSIs) over the past few years. The DfT estimates that the number of KSIs in 2012 was 32% higher than the average recorded for the 2005-2009 period.

This rise in KSI incidents has to be matched against the increasing number of people choosing to cycle. However, it is difficult to accurately measure the rise in either cycling journeys or the time and distance travelled.

The National Travel Survey (NTS) of 2012 estimated an increase of around 23% in the number of cyclists, compared to the 2005-2009 period. However, this is just an educated guess. While it is relatively straightforward to estimate car ownership, based on official data such as car registrations and tax records, no such robust data exists for cyclists. Therefore, it is important to put the current risk of cyclists being involved in a KSI incident in context.

Official figures taken from the NTS suggest that the general risk of injury from cycling in the UK is just 1 injury per 19,230 hours of cycling.

The cycling charity CTC points out that evidence suggests you are more likely to be injured during an hour of gardening than an hour of cycling.

It is possible that cycling has become more dangerous; however, the increased risk is thought to be small and should be seen in an appropriate context.

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