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Cycling Accidents – The Facts In Perspective

Monday, 26 November 2012

Cycling has received tremendous publicity in recent years. Olympic success in Beijing and London, the introduction of ‘Boris bikes’ and Bradley Wiggins win in the Tour de France have all served to encourage the leisurely and the sporting to get on their bikes.
However, the news has not always been positive. Bunches of flowers tied to junction railings and media stories about those killed or injured are frequent reminders of the vulnerability of cyclists using Britain’s roads to commute to work or keep fit.
So, are calls for greater safety measures justified, or is there a danger of sacrificing significant health benefits of cycling with scare stories and knee-jerk legislation?
The Stats
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) around 19,000 cyclists were injured or killed in road traffic accidents in 2011. Of those:
· 107 were killed
· 3,085 were seriously injured
· 16,023 were slightly injured
A Breakdown
Looking into the detail further, it is estimated that:
· Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas
· Around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads
· 75% happen at, or near, a road junction
· 80% occur in daylight
· 80% of cyclist casualties are male
· Almost one quarter of the cyclists killed or injured are children
· Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries
On the face of it these statistics make for chilling reading but taken in broader context they may not be grounds for putting people off.
In Perspective
Overall the statistics relating to cycling accidents have been improving. According to ONS data, fatalities per kilometre cycled have almost halved in the last two decades.
In addition, lack of exercise is linked to deaths from various forms of cancer and coronary heart disease which have been rising at an alarming rate. In 2009 the British Heart Foundation estimates that over 82,000 deaths were caused by coronary heart disease.
Various studies have shown the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, with cycling often receiving significant praise. One UK study (Morris et al “Exercise in Leisure Time: Coronary attack and death rates”, British Heart Journal 1990) tracked the health of 9,000 civil servants between the ages of 45-64 over 9 years. Those (7% of the group) who reported cycling at least 25 miles (a commuter trip of 2.5 miles each way) during the week experienced less than half the non-fatal and fatal coronary heart disease events (heart attacks) than did those who took no physical activity during the course of the 9 year study.
Safety must always be carefully considered when regulating particular activities but it is also important for lawmakers to weigh up the wider issues and second-order effects before enacting new legislation.
If you would like further information or wish to discuss a potential or current claim following a cycling accident, we have experienced lawyers who can help you. Please contact Sarah Vincent by email or by telephone 020 7611 4848.