Road safety and cycling: Overview

Cherry Allan's picture
Cyclist wait at junction
'More' as well as 'safer' cycling can and should go hand-in-hand
Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is essentially a safe activity, causing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users. Moreover, there is good evidence that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’, with cycling becoming safer as cycle use increases.
  • However, fear of road traffic is a major deterrent, despite the health, environmental and other benefits of cycling.
  • Actual cycle safety in the UK lags behind many of our continental neighbours, because of poorly designed roads and junctions, traffic volumes and speeds, irresponsible driving, and a legal system that fails to respond adequately to road danger.
  • National and local government should therefore aim for more as well as safer cycling. These two aims can and should go hand-in-hand.
Key facts: 
  • The life years gained due to the health and fitness benefits of cycling in Britain outweigh the life-years lost through injuries by a factor of around 20:1; and one cyclist is killed on Britain’s roads for every 27 million miles travelled by cycle.
  • According to academic research, doubling cycle use would result in only a 25-30% increase in cycle fatalities - a 35-40% reduction in risk per cyclist. 
  • 67% of non-cyclists in Britain, however, feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads; and very nearly half (48%) of those who do cycle share this view.
  • Overall, the UK has a good road safety record - but for cycle safety in particular, it is one of the poorer performing countries in Europe.
  • In 2012, serious casualties amongst cyclists in Great Britain increased by 5% against the previous year, the 8th consecutive year of increase; 2013, however, showed a 2% reduction over 2012.  
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Road safety strategies, nationally and locally, should recognise that:
    • Cycling is a safe activity, posing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users
    • The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks involved 
    • Cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are: the ‘safety in numbers’ effect 
    • The aim of cycle safety policies and initiatives should be to encourage more as well as safer cycling, in order to maximise its health, environmental and other benefits, and to improve overall safety for all road users
  • Encouraging more as well as safer cycling involves tackling factors that deter cycle use. These include high traffic volumes and speeds; irresponsible driver behaviour; the unfriendly design of many roads and junctions; and lorries. 
  • The provision of cycle training to the national standard can also help people to cycle more, to ride more safely, and to feel safer and more confident while doing so. It can also help parents feel more confident about allowing their children to cycle. 
  • Increases in cyclist casualties may still mean cycle safety is improving if cycle use is increasing more steeply than cyclist casualties. Therefore targets and indicators for the effectiveness of road safety strategies should adopt ‘rate-based’ measures for improvements in cycle safety, e.g. cycle casualties (or fatal and serious injuries) per million km cycled, or per million trips. Simple casualty reduction targets should be avoided. 
  • ‘Perception-based’ indicators, which show whether public perceptions of cycle safety in a given area are getting better, can be used alongside ‘rate-based’ indicators, or as an interim substitute for the latter if necessary. 
  • Care should be taken to avoid cycle safety awareness campaigns that ‘dangerise’ cycling. These deter people from cycling or allowing their children to cycle and are counter-productive because they erode the ‘safety in numbers’ effect, as well as undermining the activity’s wider health and other benefits.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
December 2014
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hilaryr's picture

The public sectir equality duty

Does the CTC ask - what equality impact assessments , and other equality evidence is presented at the outset of road safety initiatives?

Does the CTC seek equality impact data from public sector for any transport plans, policies, budgets?

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