Photo Credit: Sam Jones, Walthamstow, London May 2023
The charity Cycling UK has released new analysis showing that the number of people killed on British roads while cycling, per billion miles, fell by nearly a quarter compared with pre-pandemic years.
In fact, provisional road casualty figures published in May show there were 85 fatalities for pedal cyclists in 2022, the lowest number of fatalities since 1993. This was a 15% reduction from an average of 100 fatalities per year between the years of 2015 and 2019, the closest comparable years after the pandemic.
Cycling UK says liveable neighbourhoods, updates to the Highway Code and other road safety measures are likely what have led to the 24% drop in casualties.
One such update is the rollout of more 20mph zones.
“We know that when cars collide with people at 20mph, there’s a reduced chance of death comparatively to 30mph,” Cycling UK Campaigns Manager Keir Gallagher told Zag Daily.
The safe passing distance for cars overtaking bikes was also defined by law for the first time as 1.5 meters when the Highway Code was updated in January of 2022. These changes along with general improvements to cycle lanes and higher quality infrastructure may have helped lower the death toll.
“The fact that we are seeing this drop in deaths proves that interventions can and do work,” said Gallagher. “The death toll on our roads isn’t something society has to accept.”
As fatalities drop, cycling in the UK is on the rise. Cycling mileage is up by 12% compared to pre-Covid levels. According to the most recent road traffic estimates by the Department for Transport (DfT) for England, Wales, and Scotland, the total distance covered by cyclists in 2022 amounted to 3.9 billion miles.
The charity says government action and investment will be key to ensure 2022 is not a statistical anomaly but instead marks the beginning of a longer-term trend in fewer road casualties.
“We now know what works in terms of creating safe space for cycling and for walking,” said Gallagher. “We know that we need quality protected cycle lanes. We need to reduce speeds and reduce traffic numbers to create quieter roads and residential areas. We need enforcement of laws that protect cyclists. Now, it’s just a matter of doing it.”