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How Vulnerable Are Pedal Cyclists To RTA’s In The UK?

Pedal cyclists are amongst the most vulnerable road users in the UK. This is due to a combination of factors.

The lack of protection typically afforded by other modes of transport makes cyclists less visible to other drivers on the road. It also increases the risks of cyclists suffering graver injuries in case of a collision or any other type of road traffic accident. Riding on two wheels can also contribute to a cyclist’s higher vulnerability as it is less stable than a 4-wheeled vehicle.

Key Statistics On Pedal Cyclists In Road Collisions In The UK

A look at the statistics published by the Department for Transport in the Pedal Cycle Factsheet 2020 can be very insightful.

According to the data in the Cycle Factsheet, pedal cycle traffic increased by 96% in a 16-year period between 2004 and 2020. During that same time span, there was a 5% rise in fatalities (from 134 to 141) and a 26% rise in serious injuries.

Pedal CyclistsAnother set of statistics on the Cycle Factsheet shows that over the period from 2015 to 2020 there was an average of 2 fatalities and 83 serious injuries reported related to pedal cyclists every week.

During that same time period (2015 to 2020), 56% of cycling fatalities occurred on rural roads compared to 29% of fatalities in traffic. However, the proportion of non-fatal casualties was higher in traffic as compared to rural roads.

The time of day that most pedal cyclist accidents occurred showed marked differences between weekdays and weekends. On weekdays, most accidents occurred between 7 am and 10 am and then between 4 pm and 7 pm. However, on weekends, the highest number of accidents occurred between 10 am and 12 noon.

The statistics regarding other vehicles involved in collisions with pedal cyclists showed that between 2015 and 2020, there were 298 pedal cycle fatalities in 2-vehicle accidents involving a car.

One thing to keep in mind is that the numbers published in the DoT’s Cycle Factsheet are collated from police reports and because accidents in which there are no fatalities tend to go unreported, the number of non-fatal casualties is likely to be much higher than the reported numbers.

What Commonly Contributes To Pedal Cycle Accidents?

According to police reports, the most common factor that contributed to pedal cyclists’ fatal or serious accidents with another vehicle was the cyclist’s or the driver’s failure to look properly.

Other common contributory factors recorded in police reports were ‘rider or driver reckless, careless, or in a hurry’, ‘failure to judge the other driver’s/rider’s path or speed’, ‘cyclist getting onto the road from the pavement’, and ‘poor turn or manoeuvre’.

No matter how careful you are while cycling, there are several dangers that can lead to a cyclist being knocked off a bike due to factors beyond their control. Understanding the factors that contribute to cycle accidents provides valuable insight into what can be done to avoid these accidents. Here are some things you can do to minimise the risks when you’re cycling on the roads.

Safety Advice Before You Leave Home On Your Bike

Safety on the roads begins well before you actually get cycling. Doing the following simple things before you get on your bike could be the difference between being hit by a car and arriving safely and unscathed at your destination.

  • Make sure that your bike is well-maintained and road-worthy. This means, the tyres must be properly inflated for road conditions, the brake levers should be functioning properly and the gears must be oiled and moving smoothly.
  • Make sure you are properly equipped for cycling on the roads. This includes wearing an approved cycling helmet and clothes that won’t get caught in the spokes. It also helps to wear fluorescent clothing so you’re more visible to other road users. If you’re riding at night, wear light-coloured clothing or a jacket with fluorescent strips, and make sure your lights are working.
  • Make sure to read and understand the Highway Code related to cycling so you don’t flout the rules unknowingly. When it comes to road rules, don’t presume anything. Learning you were wrong after you’ve met with an accident may be too late.

Safety Advice When You’re Cycling On The Road

  • You should know the Highway Code guidelines and road rules so make sure to follow them.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings and traffic while you’re on the road. Using headphones or using your mobile phone can be distracting and increases the risks of accidents. It’s not worth it.
  • Wherever possible, use cycle lanes and stay within the lane. Check for traffic before pulling out of the cycle lane and getting onto the road. Remember, getting onto the road from the pavement is one of the top contributory factors for pedal cyclist accidents according to police reports.
  • Be especially careful near road junctions and bus stops. Do not pass between a bus and the kerb at or near bus stops.
  • Before you turn, overtake, or come to a halt, check for vehicles behind you. Before turning or changing lanes, use arm signals to give drivers behind you advance notice so they can slow down.
  • Allow plenty of room when passing pedestrians, especially older people, young children, and people with disabilities.
  • Steer clear of parked vehicles and watch for the vehicle’s occupants opening the doors or stepping into your path.
  • Keep your eye on the road ahead and watch for any type of obstruction such as potholes, damaged drain covers, or debris that lie in your path.

Safety Tips For Riding Around HGVs

Cycling alongside, in front of or behind a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) can be particularly dangerous. This is because the structure of an HGV is such that the driver has multiple blind spots, the most significant being to the left of the HGV.  The HGV driver cannot see you if you ride in the vehicle’s blind spot. This increases the risk of an accident with a lorry as the driver cannot take the necessary precautions if they cannot see you.

Please stay safe out there.

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