What the figures say
Devon and Cornwall’s annual resident cyclists casualty rate of 17.1 per 100,000 population is 44% lower than the national rate and 31% lower than the South West regional rate.
However, within Devon and Cornwall, Exeter has by far the highest rate of 37.3, which is 54% higher than the overall Peninsula rate. This risk is especially high among affluent middle-aged adult cyclists with families in popular neighborhoods.
Eastern Cornwall has the lowest rate of 11.0, which is 36% lower than the overall Peninsula rate.
RoSPA reports that nationally in 2016, 18,477 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents, including 3,499 who were killed or seriously injured. These figures only include cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police. Many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police, even when the cyclist is injured badly enough to be taken to hospital.
In 2018, 99 cyclists were killed and 4,106 were seriously injured in Great Britain. Although car occupants account for the greatest number of casualties each year, this is unsurprising as cars account for 80% of traffic on Britain’s roads.
Cyclists fall into the ‘vulnerable road users’ category, along with pedestrians and motorcyclists, who have much higher casualty rates per mile travelled than other road users.
It might be assumed that if the number of pedal cyclists on the road rise, the number of cyclist casualties will rise too. However, research has revealed a ‘safety in numbers’ argument that suggests that this may not be the case.
The safety in numbers approach states that in a mixed traffic environment, the balance of different types of road users can affect the relative risk of injury to individuals, suggesting that if more people cycle; the roads will become less risky for cyclists.
The concept of safety in numbers is not new. It was first demonstrated by Smeed in 1949 with regard to motor vehicles. Smeed argued that data from 62 countries indicated that the number of road fatalities per vehicle was lower in countries with more driving.
This concept is now also being applied to cycling. Research by Jacobsen (2003) suggests that when more cyclists are on the road, there are fewer collisions, with data indicating that this is the case in The Netherlands, California and Denmark.