Road safety and cycling: Overview

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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. 61% of people surveyed on their attitudes agreed or strongly agreed that “it is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads." (2011 British Social Attitudes Survey).
  • 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 – the two aims can and should go hand-in-hand.
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 2013
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  • Patron: Her Majesty The Queen
  • President: Jon Snow
  • Chief Executive: Carol McKinley (Acting)
  • Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC): A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no.25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1147607 and in Scotland No SC042541

 

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