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Bicycle Safety: Evaluating the Safety of Our Roads

29th June 2017 Print

In 2014, 90% of journeys were completed on roads across Britain. On these roads, 83% of journeys were undertaken in a car, van or taxi – covering more than 600 billion kilometres over the course of the year. 

Bicycles accounted for only 1% of the total number of vehicles used on our roads in 2014, which is a 13% decrease in cycle use since 1952 when the official figure stood at 14%. 

As this 60-year trend appears to suggest, cyclists are diminishing on our roads, and more often than not, this means that their safety can be overlooked when the distance travelled by car or van has increased by over 1,000%. Together with True Solicitors, specialists in bicycle accident claims, we evaluate how safe our roads really are when it comes to cycling, and whether this relates to the small number of cyclists compared to other forms of transport throughout the UK.

Cycling: the British Picture

In 2015, the British Social Attitudes survey suggested that of those over the age of 18, 1.5 million people cycled every day or nearly every day, accounting for 3% of the people surveyed. 

This is drastically contrasted by 34 million, 69% of those surveyed, who suggested that they never cycled. Across the UK then, the dwindling numbers of cyclists on our roads is a direct result of the lack of cyclists across the UK generally – not because they do not like to cycle on the road. However, by analysing individual countries within the UK, the idea that Britain is uninclined to use a bicycle as a form of transport of our roads becomes clearer. 


Based on the Active People Survey, which surveyed over 16s between 2014 and 2015, 3% cycled five times a week (1.3 million) — less than the national average. The survey also found that 15% cycled at least once per month, which equates to 6.6 million people.

What this suggests, is that rather than cyclists using their bike on roads to commute during the working week, they are perhaps using their bikes as a leisure activity – which as we go on to discuss – does form a correlation with the nature of cycling accidents throughout the UK.


In Wales, of those surveyed aged over 16, 6% suggested that they cycled 1-2 times a day in 2014-15, a similar figure to the 3% of cyclists in England who cycled five times a week. 


Like England and Wales, those who cycled regularly in Scotland in 2014 were still below the 10% threshold of the total number of people surveyed. As a means of transport, 3% of people aged over 16 used a bicycle 1 – 2 days a week. 2% used one 3 -5 days a week, and only 1% used a bicycle nearly every day of the week. 

Nationally then, the evidence suggests that Britain does not want to use a bicycle as a form of transport on our roads, but is this because of the hazards the average cyclist could face on our roads on a daily basis?

Cycling fatalities and injuries throughout the UK

Published in June 2017, a RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) Road Safety Factsheet declared that in 2015, 18,844 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents, including 3,339 who were killed or seriously injured.

Cyclists within urbanised areas 

Based on these numbers, their Cycling Policy Paper in 2015 suggested that from these cycling fatalities or serious accidents, 75% of those occurred in urban areas, whilst 50% of fatalities occurred on urban roads. Of this 75% within urban areas, two-thirds of these cyclists were involved in a crash at or near a road junction, with T-junctions and roundabouts acting as particularly dangerous hazards for cyclists. 

This data suggests that if the largest number of deaths and serious injuries occur within urbanised areas, it could be why the vast majority of cyclists do not use their bike regularly up to five times a week. Perhaps then, there is a correlation between these accidents and a cyclist’s unwillingness to get to work via their bike on British roads that are in and around city centres, or other areas that include an infrastructure built up of roads that accommodate heavy traffic from other types of vehicles such as cars and vans. 

This view is qualified in the report, as it suggests that for cyclists, the most dangerous hours of the day are between 3 – 6pm during the weekday rush hour, and 8 – 9am when commuters using other modes of transport are travelling to work. However, the research also notes that the severity of the accident is heightened by the speed limit and how fast the cyclist is travelling – with more serious and fatal injuries occurring on roads with a higher speed limit. 

Although urbanised areas and other road users have a direct impact on the safety of cyclists, perhaps a part of the discussion that has been overlooked is how safety conscious cyclists are when they are out on the roads. 

Accidents that did not involve another vehicle accounted for 16%, and for those with another vehicle, 57% of factors attributed to drivers were commonly regarding the idea that the ‘driver failed to look properly.’ Furthermore, 20% of serious collisions arose because cyclists ‘entered the road from the pavement’ – whilst 20% of collision fatalities occurred because a HGV was turning left at a junction or they were ‘passing too close’ to the rider, especially in London. What this reveals, is that when both cyclists and other drivers do not focus properly on the road ahead, unfortunate accidents do and can occur. 

The future of urban cycling

Although there are many factors that contribute towards the number of cyclists using their bicycle every day, their safety in and around urban areas does appear to be a significant consideration. Infrastructurally, roads within these areas could accommodate more dedicated cycle lanes that could help to prevent accidents at junctions occurring. If the safety and future of cycling on a regular basis is to be guaranteed then, roads need to be accessible and usable for everyone, not just the most popular forms of road transport such as cars, vans and taxis.