Safe space for cycling

People cycling experience 5,265 casualties per billion passenger miles compared to just 223 for car occupants.

Department for Transport, Reported road casualties in Great Britain: 2018
  • The level of risk for people cycling is unacceptably high.
  • Creating a safe environment for people cycling involves a range of measures but protected cycle lanes on main roads, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods for residential areas; and 20mph speed limits are key.

People cycling made up 6% of fatalities in 2018 in Great Britain even though  cycling represents just 1% of all distance travelled and 2% of all trips made.

Department for Transport

Protected cycle lanes on main roads

The vast majority of cycling casualties in built up areas occur on main roads. In London (for the years 2012/13/15/16/17/18) 85% of all cycling fatalities and 62% of all fatal and serious cycling casualties occurred on A roads. But there are just 143 miles of protected space for cyclists on these main roads in London (segregated or partially/light segregated on-street cycle lanes).

Evidence suggests that protected cycle lanes are the core building block of safe cycling in our towns and cities. Copenhagen has introduced mostly protected cycle tracks over the last 25 years and over the same period the risk of serious collision has reduced by 72% per cycled kilometre (more here).

A study from the US (story here , fuller detail here and full research report here) goes futher and suggests that the presence of protected cycling infrastructure improves safety not only for people cycling but for all road users (people on foot and those driving too). The paper proposes that at the highest level of provision of protected/separated cycle facilities across a city, “we would expect a 44% reduction in the fatal crash rate and more than 50% drop in the fatal/severe injury crash rate”. In so far as the cause is understood, it appears that the presence of cycle lanes (and the resulting reduction in carriageway capacity) reduces vehicle speeds in a way that benefits the safety of all road users.

Research in July 2021 from TfL into the trial cycle way in Chiswick has found that:

  • Cycling along the trial route has increased by 72% on weekdays between February and April 2021 with up to 2,700 people a day. Around 20% of the ‘vehicles’ using the road during the day now are bikes.
  • Provisional data from the Metropolitan Police also shows in the 12 months before TfL introduced the new temporary cycle lanes to Chiswick High Road, there were eight collisions involving a cyclist, while in the six months since TfL introduced the temporary scheme, there have been two such collisions.

Another significant benefit of protected cycle lanes is their role in reducing conficts with HGVs which are involved in a disproportionately large number of serious and fatal cycling casualties.

Protected cycle track in City of London

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods for residential areas

The removal of through motor traffic in residential areas through Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) reduces casualties AND allows people to feel sufficiently safe that they are happy to walk and cycle more. Across a local authority area, this can be taken further and can have a huge impact. If all the residential areas are designed as LTNs and if there are safe, frequent and attractive crossings across the main roads that border them, the whole of local authority area opens up to those who are reluctant or fearful to cycle along main roads. For more about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods see London Cycling Campaign and London Living Streets.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Waltham Forest (with examples of traffic filters)

See too a 3 minute video about the impacts of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods here

20mph speed limits

Where vehicle speeds are reduced to a maximum of 20mph, research has found that casualties amongst people cycling falls by almost a fifth. The study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006 found that in traffic calmed 20mph zones, there was a reduction in casualties amongst cyclists of 16.9%. Obviously with 20mph limits, there is more to do to ensure that speeds fall to a maximum of 20mph but there is clearly a significant benefit for people cycling of reducing vehicle speeds.

20mph speed limits in Camberwell Town Centre
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