Highway Code updates, low traffic neighbourhoods, and 20mph zones behind cyclist fatalities falling to lowest number in 30 years, says Cycling UK
Cycling UK has claimed that an increasing number of road safety measures, including the introduction of liveable neighbourhoods, 20mph zones, and last year’s updates to the Highway Code, are behind the recent fall in cyclist fatalities on British roads.
According to provisional road casualty figures published by the Department for Transport, 85 people were killed while riding their bikes in Great Britain in 2022, the lowest number of fatalities since 1993, a drop attributed by the active travel charity to measures introduced since the Covid-19 pandemic to make the UK’s roads safer.
However, Cycling UK has insisted that more government action and investment is needed to ensure that the 2022 statistics “mark the beginning of a longer-term trend in road casualties for people cycling” and don’t simply become a “statistical anomaly”.
New analysis from the cycling charity has found that the number of people killed while cycling in England, Scotland, and Wales, per billion miles, also fell by almost a quarter compared to the immediate pre-pandemic years.
Published yesterday, the Department for Transport’s road traffic estimates show that the number of miles travelled by people cycling in 2022 totalled 3.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from the average of 3.5 billion miles a year recorded between 2015 and 2019.
Meanwhile, the 85 cyclists killed in 2022 also represent a 15 percent reduction from an average of 100 fatalities a year during that same pre-pandemic period.
Cycling UK has used these statistics to calculate the rate of people killed while cycling per billion miles travelled – the best method, it says, of ascertaining whether the roads are becoming safer. According to this analysis, 22 cyclists were killed per billion miles cycled in 2022, compared to an average of 29 in 2015-2019 (a 24 percent reduction), and 27 and 26 in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Notably, the DfT’s figures also show that the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads fell considerably in 2022. While over 4,400 people were killed or seriously injured while cycling every year between 2015 and 2021, this number dropped to 4,146 in 2022.
Cycling UK believes that road safety measures introduced throughout 2021 and 2022 are part of the reason for the “significant decline” in cyclists killed or injured in Great Britain.
“These figures prove the tragic death toll on our roads isn’t inevitable,” Cycling UK’s chief executive Sarah Mitchell says. “They show the government could save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of devastating injuries by taking more action to reduce road danger.
“Proving cause and effect is always difficult, but over the last two years a number of measures have been introduced to make roads safer, such as an updated Highway Code, wider roll out of 20mph zones, and interventions to reduce through traffic in residential areas. It is likely a combination of these contributed to last year’s reduction in cyclist deaths.”
However, with the Department for Transport currently under scrutiny for its failure to deliver its active travel targets, and with cycling and walking schemes threatened by proposed government cuts, Mitchell argues that more needs to be done to protect cycling infrastructure and save lives.
“Despite making up less than two percent of all non-motorway traffic on our roads, people cycling are still over-represented in the fatalities and injuries on our roads,” she says.
“Action can make a difference, which is why Cycling UK wants to see the government reverse cuts to cycling and walking infrastructure investment. This infrastructure keeps people safe and saves lives, but the cuts threaten to do exactly the opposite.”
Last month, we reported that the government is facing a legal challenge from a campaign group over its decision to slash investment in walking and cycling in England, with lawyers acting on behalf of the Transport Action Network (TAN) writing to the DfT seeking a judicial review into the cuts.
TAN claims that the active travel budget cuts bypassed legal processes and risk undermining commitments related to air pollution and the climate emergency.
The cuts, announced in March, were slammed at the time as “a backward move” by the Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA), who estimated that two thirds of previously promised funding would be lost, making it “impossible” to meet Net Zero and active travel targets.
As pointed out in Parliament by SNP MP Gavin Newlands a month later, the slash to the active travel budget means that less than £1 per head will be spent in England outside of London, compared to £50 per head in Scotland.
Meanwhile, a damning report published in early June by the National Audit Office found that the Department for Transport is highly unlikely to achieve any of its four goals for active travel by 2025, prompting campaign groups to claim that the government’s plans to boost cycling and walking in England are “in tatters” thanks to years of “stop-start” funding.
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