Thousands of cyclists were injured or killed on UK roads last year - here's what you need to know

Local authorities across the UK are being urged to improve their cycling infrastructure to cut road deaths and injuries as more people take to their bikes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With official government data showing over 17,000 cyclists were injured or killed on the UK’s roads last year, a leading charity says safety is a key barrier to more people making the switch to cycling.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) analysed by the JPIMedia Data Unit reveal 410 cyclists have been killed in the UK since 2016.

While the overall number of casualties has fallen every year since 2016, the number seriously injured has increased by 9%.

Last year 102 cyclists lost their lives, nearly 4,000 were seriously injured and over 3,000 were slightly injured.

Only incidents reported to police are included, while figures prior to 2016 cannot be compared as many police forces changed their definition of a serious injury.

The average age of casualty was 36 last year, with the vast majority of victims being men.

Safer streets

Daisy Narayanan, director of urbanism at walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said safety is a key barrier to more people taking up cycling.

“While cycling is a relatively safe activity, we need to continue to make our streets safer for people who cycle and to increase people’s perception of safety,” Ms Narayanan said.

Every day in the UK 47 cyclists are injured or killed on the roads. Image: Shutterstock

“In order to ensure cycling safety across the board, we need strong leadership in walking and cycling at the local level.

“Local authorities should work to create safer, better streets and places through the implementation of protected cycle routes and low traffic neighbourhoods, whilst taking into account the local context.”

'One life lost on our roads is one too many'

The UK Government said it is investing billions to make cycling safer.

A spokesperson said: “We’re investing an unprecedented £2 billion to support cycling and walking over the next five years, including for safe, high-quality infrastructure, and proposing changes to The Highway Code to further protect cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.”

102 cyclists were killed in the UK in 2019, white bikes are now commonly used to commemorate them. Image: Shutterstock

While deaths make up just 1% of all cycling casualties in Scotland, a spokesperson for Transport Scotland said that “one life lost on our roads is one too many”.

Edinburgh had the highest rate of cycling casualties in Scotland with 30 per 100,000 people in 2019.

The Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We have committed through the Programme for Government to spend over £500 million over five years to help deliver accessible protected infrastructure for walking and cycling across Scotland.”

In Northern Ireland, Belfast had the greatest number of cycling casualties in 2019 with 112 reported to PSNI. Two cyclists were killed in the country.

Inspector Rosie Leech from Roads Policing at PSNI said most of the collisions they investigate are found to have been preventable deaths.

“In respect of cyclists we recognise the particular vulnerability they pose and we have been working with both motorists and cycling groups to try and improve the safety standards and foster some mutual respect.”

Inspector Leech added that PSNI is working with various groups and has multiple campaigns to improve the safety of road users in Northern Ireland.