Cyclists three times more likely to die on UK roads than abroad

Britain urged to follow example of bicycle-friendly Holland where fatality rates are much lower

Cycling may help save the planet – but more must be done to save the cyclists, researchers say.

It is much more hazardous to travel by bike in Britain than in Holland or Denmark, and unless policymakers act to make cycling safer, efforts to persuade more people to switch to two wheels are likely to fail, they warn.

Injuries to cyclists in Britain are disproportionately high compared with those to drivers and passengers in cars. From 1999 to 2004, 35,000 cyclists were injured severely enough to be admitted to hospital in England, compared with 71,000 occupants in cars.

Yet the ratio of one cyclist injured to every two car occupants is dramatically out of line with the numbers of cyclists and cars on the road. On average, more than 637 trips per person are made by car travellers compared with 15 by bike.

"If car and bicycle journeys were equally safe or hazardous, trip for trip, one would expect 40 times fewer admissions for injuries to cyclists than to car occupants.... Per trip, cycling is more risky, as measured by hospital admission, than travelling by car," the researchers from the University of Surrey, Guildford, say in the journal Injury Prevention.

Compared to the UK, where just four per cent of the population use bicycles, cycling is much more popular in Holland, with 25 per cent of people getting about by bike, and Denmark, where one in five trips are made by bicycle. But these countries have much lower injury and death rates, suggesting that there is safety in numbers. International comparisons show that English cyclists are three times more likely to be killed or injured per mile travelled than their Dutch or Danish counterparts.

The town of Groningen in Holland has pursued a consistent policy of promoting cycling for the last 25 years, and 60 per cent of the population now regularly travel by bike – more than twice the Dutch average and 15 times the UK rate.

In the early 1990s, politicians in Groningen backed radical proposals to dig up city centre motorways and rid the town of traffic chaos and create a virtually car-free centre of green spaces, pedestrianised streets, bike paths and separate bus lanes.

Although retailers feared a mass exodus of shoppers to out-of-town malls that could be reached by car, the reverse happened, and local businesses have since demanded more "cyclisation" of streets. City planners say the reduced congestion has steadily benefited jobs and businesses. Faster journey times for employees have meant better productivity, and a cleaner, safer environment has brought in extra shoppers. Cycling has become more convenient than motoring, with a network of bicycle routes stretching nearly 200km.

In the UK, cities such as York, Hull and Cambridge, where up to 20 per cent of journeys are made by bike, have demonstrated what determination and long-term planning can do. Half a dozen other towns have received grants of more than £1m each from Cycling England to boost bike travel in their localities.

The barrier they have had to overcome is the perception that cycling is dangerous. Yet the more cyclists there are on the road, the safer it becomes as drivers get used to them.

In the University of Surrey study, researchers found that although there were more injuries in the summer – because there are more cyclists on the roads – injuries in the winter were more severe. "There may be an effect of safety in numbers – increased awareness of cyclists by car drivers – when the use of cycling increases in the spring and summer," they say.

A third of the injuries to adult cyclists, and a fifth of those to child cyclists, involved collisions with a vehicle. However, this may underestimate the number of accidents in which vehicles were involved, as a cyclist may be forced to take evasive action when a motorist passes too close or opens a car door. Potholes and other problems with the road surface may also cause accidents.

The authors point out that increasing the number of journeys by bike will help combat obesity and save the planet – but when people feel it is unsafe, they may be right.

"Encouragement of walking and cycling needs to be accompanied by serious efforts to ensure that safe traffic environments are established for pedestrians and cyclists. Better separation of pedestrians and cyclists from motorists, and greater awareness among the latter of the risks faced by pedestrians and cyclists, are important."

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Software Engineer - C#, VB.Net, ASP.Net - Kingston, Sur

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior Software Engineer - C#, VB.N...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:SECONDARY teachers need...

Behaviour Support Work

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Behaviour Support WorkerThe JobTo...

English Teacher, Aylesford School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker