Monday, 9 December 2013

How safe are UK roads?, Cycle Statistics

I have been reading the news today and the report relating to Boris Johnson and the heading "Boris Johnson protesters 'scaring cyclists' claim withdrawn" caught my attention. I only got a few lines in, specifically these lines

In an early draft speech, Boris Johnson was set to say: "Of course I accept that people want to create pressure for action to get more Londoners cycling.

"But the risk is that the association of cycling with death... may be scaring people away."


This got me thinking having recently had an inconsiderate driver force me off the road. There is a section of the article that show the number of cyclist deaths per year but this figure is not what makes me not want to cycle on the road its more that I know the roads are not safe. The thought continues into why the government does not address the unsafe roads which eventually got me pondering about these statistics and that they are out of context. I turned to google and thought 'I wonder if I could find some statistical context'.

I thought listing the number of cyclists that have been killed on the road does not really show how safe or unsafe the roads are without something to compare to such as total number of accidents for cycling. I started looking for the total number of injuries that had occurred on the road involving cyclists and identified that for 2013 there had been 19091 (Source accidents involving cyclists where the cyclist had been injured, seriously injured or killed. This figure again needed context so I identified that in 2001 there were about 750000 cyclists that commute to work based on census data (Source: Granted the dates were different and probably not the most accurate but I could not find anything more recent.

But armed with these figures it appeared that 2.5% of these cyclists are injured per year while cycling. 

I then thought well how many cars are involved in accidents each year so I could compare.

I identified that there had been 195,723 slightly injured, seriously injured or killed from road accidents in the UK. (Source: As this was the same source for the cyclist injury I presumed that this included cyclist data and subtracted the 19091 cyclist injuries which left me 176,632.

Again I needed context so I thought if I knew how many drivers there were in the UK I could perform the same comparison but there was no such data available online. However there was a record on the number of registered vehicles in the UK for 2011. 

There were 34.2 Million (Source: this was again a different year and did not include foreign registered vehicles or a person owning more than one vehicle so would not be an accurate number of drivers on UK roads but was a good indicator of the number of vehicles on UK roads.

Again armed with these figures it appeared that 0.51% of the drivers driving these registered vehicles would be injured while driving.

I understand the figures were not entirely accurate or would cover every scenario but it suggests that as a cyclist it is 6 times more likely to be injured while cycling than a driver is while driving on UK roads.

Finding useful data on this seems to take more time than I have to spend but that said it seems that media and politicians are not highlighting the risk of using the roads in the UK. I just think if an article was written stating your 6 times more likely to be injured or killed driving there would be far more action. I must point out I am not a statistician or a mathematician, I just like to ride my bike, I think there needs to be more research to obtain accurate statistics to allow an informed comparison but still my thoughts as a road user.