Each year the Department of Transport publishes a report entitled ‘Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain.’ The report outlines statistics relating to the number of casualties sustained by different types of road user and is broken down into groups: car occupants, pedestrians, motorcyclists and pedal cyclists.
As a firm that includes a number of keen cyclists amongst its staff, our attention is invariably drawn to the facts and figures of injuries sustained by pedal cyclists. Whilst the number of fatal accidents involving cyclists has remained at around the hundred mark each year since 2008, the number of seriously injured cyclists has been generally rising each year since 2004 (although the figure of 3,239 for 2015, was a little down on the previous year). With 15, 505 slightly injured in 2015, the total number of casualties for the year was 18,844.
The alarming statistics showing that serious injuries sustained by cyclists in cycling accidents are on the whole, rising, can in part be explained by the fact that there are more cyclists on the road, or, in other words, more cyclists becoming exposed to more motor vehicle traffic.
Cycling has boomed in the UK over the past ten years in no small part due to the success of British cyclists in major competitions and the emergence of multiple role models both male and female. As commuters battle it out on increasingly congested urban roads, increasing numbers of people have taken to cycling to and from their place of work – not only can they complete the same journey as a motorised vehicle often in half the time at peak periods, cycling to work is far less expensive than driving the same journey. Add to this, that cycling has now become the preferred choice of many, both young and old, as a means of keeping fit and it is not hard to explain the increasing number of cyclists on the road today.
However this rise in the volume of bicycles on the road cannot be the sole cause for the general increase, since the percentage rise of the incidence of serious injury causing accidents, is greater than the percentage rise of the number of cyclists on the road.
In truth the rise in the number of serious injuries arising from bicycle accidents is probably down to multiple factors.
The Government’s Transport Select Committee Report in March 2016 indicated that, whilst the number of reported traffic convictions has halved in the past decade, this was more likely to be due to a decrease in the number of Police traffic patrols on the road, rather than an improvement in driving standards. The number of drink driving offences has similarly reduced and, the committee surmised, probably for the same reasons ie less chances of being caught, rather than an improvement in the number of people actually getting behind the wheel after having imbibed a little too much. Cyclists are probably the most vulnerable group of all road users, in terms of suffering injury, as a result of instances of poor driving being brought to book less frequently than in previous years.
Undoubtedly another factor in the increase in the number of cycling accidents is that, whilst there has been a relative explosion in the number of cyclists on the roads, the investment in cycle friendly infrastructure has not been sufficient to keep pace with the volume of cyclists now on the road. Consequently whereas in a city such as Amsterdam, the cyclist is superbly catered for with cycle friendly road design and reduced speed limits, UK cities are way behind in terms of the investment required to provide such an environment.
An important factor in the likelihood of a cyclist being seriously injured or becoming a fatality statistic is the type of road where an accident occurs. According to RoSpa (The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents), rural roads accounted for 50% of pedal cyclist fatalities in 2014. This is a statistic that will surprise many. However, average speeds on rural roads tend to be higher than those on urban roads and in addition, rural roads are carrying an increased amount of the traffic due, in no small part, to motorists increasingly preferring to drive on them, to avoid congestion on the Motorways and Primary routes. Motor vehicle drivers may tend not to expect to encounter cyclists as often on rural roads, as they would do in more urban locations and therefore be less alert to the presence of cyclists and the extra care needed when driving in close proximity to them.
The increasingly very poor state of the country’s road surfaces has seen a proliferation in the number of potholes that simply do not get repaired – quickly or, in some cases, at all! Potholes are a hazard to all road users, but to cyclists (and motorcyclists) they can literally be a death trap or, at the very least, result in serious injury. As a firm of personal injury solicitors, we have noticed an increase in the number enquiries from cyclists who have been injured in accidents on roads as a result of hitting potholes or other road defects and being thrown off their cycles.
It is, sadly, hard to see more money being made available by the government to rectify many, if any, of the situations that we have outlined above in the near future. Therefore, as the trend in the numbers of cyclists on the roads looks set to continue to increase in the foreseeable future, it is incumbent on cyclists, not to stop cycling, but to ensure that they ride with ever more awareness for their own safety, to ensure that they are not the cause of accidents themselves, to ride in a safe and sensible manner, to ensure each time they jump on the saddle they made sure that their bike is in a totally roadworthy condition, by check that the helmet is always on securely and that protective and reflective clothing is worn. Keep cycling!
If you are unfortunate enough to be injured in a cycling accident that was not your fault, contact us here at Truth Legal. We are personal injury specialists and will be happy to discuss, with you the possibility of making a claim for compensation for any injury that you have suffered and other losses incurred as a result of the accident. You can get in touch with us by calling on 01423 788538 or by emailing us on [email protected].