Thursday, 28 June 2012

Outrageous: 36% increase in serious bike rider casualties, massive leap in pedestrian deaths. Growth in casualties rising faster than number of bike trips. Casualties among car drivers dropped in the 1960s when traffic grew and politicians took action. When will Boris Johnson act to reduce the cyclist casualty rate?

This is not a bike lane. Brand new cycle super highway in London.
Pointless, frankly. 
I've known about these figures for months but I couldn't talk about them because they hadn't been published officially. And now they have. And they're more shocking than I realised.

Last year, 16 people were killed cycling in London. An increase of 60% on 2010. A further 555 were seriously injured, up 21% on last year. What's more, the serious injuries are up 36% on the long term trend 2005-9. What's a 'serious injury'? Well, it's someone like Mary Bowers, the journalist at The Times who is still in a coma, months after being hit by someone driving an HGV.

And only last night, the Mayor of London, was telling an audience at a debate broadcast on radio that cycling was getting safer. Yet, even Transport for London admits that the cycling casualty numbers are 'statistically significant'.The TfL announcement points out that the number of people cycling on London's trunk roads has increased 173% since 2001, so a 36% increase in serious casualties is represented as an improvement. As one commentator points out below, the likely increase in cycle trips in 2011 vs 2010 is probably around 5-6% (the official figures haven't been released yet) against a slightly smaller increase the previous year. Whichever way you look at it, the rate of serious injuries to people riding bikes seems to be growing faster than the growth rate in trips made by bike.

What's more, London's roads are getting worse for everyone. Unless you're in a car. There were 2% FEWER casualties among car occupants in London last year versus the previous year. Look at the figures for pedestrians, though, and the change is shocking. 77 pedestrians were killed on London's roads last year, up 33% on 2010. That's outrageous.

I've no doubt that Boris Johnson will pitch up in the media this week or next and say that the rate of growth in cycling means these statistics are less horrific than you might otherwise believe. But let me point out this: In 1965, the government limited speeds on motorways and introduced tough drink-driving laws. Motor traffic increased 4% the next year but accidents decreased 9% in the same period. Bike traffic in London has increased. By approximately 4-6% per annum. And yet the casualty rates have not decreased. They've increased too - seemingly far faster than the growth in the number of bike trips. I think a large part of that is because the roads aren't fit for purpose. It's simply not good enough for Boris Johnson to say there are more bike rider casualties because there are more people using bikes. It wasn't acceptable for motor car drivers in the 1960s, nor should it be for bike riders in the 2010s. For more analysis of the numbers, have a read of DrawingRings blog.

That said, one thing we should absolutely condemn is the fact that pedestrians injured by people on bikes has increased 13% to 178. This is reprehensible and the cycling community should take note. However, cyclist collisions with pedestrians are still minute compared with goods vehicles up 9% to 446 and other motor vehicles which account for over 5,000 casualties.

This is the Mayor who has:
  • Only recently, said that the majority of people injured while cycling are law-breakers and have only themselves to blame. Even the Daily Mail wrote an article decrying his comments as patently unbelievable. Last month he repeated his assertion that you simply need to 'have your wits about you' to not be killed or crushed on London's roads.
Frankly, Mr Johnson, a meek and mild 'evolution' is not enough.

I do not want to become a statistic to the fact that you have ignored every warning, you have ignored best practice from cities like New York and Chicago and Montreal.

Spot the brand new cycle super highway. It's UNDERNEATH the Lexus
I'm going to acknowledge here and now that many people who use bicycles are not making friends with other Londoners. Riding through red lights is antisocial in the extreme and, frankly, it p-sses people off. But that's not a reason to say, oh well, cyclists are to blame. I love cycling on my road bike in lycra. When I do that, I'm a 'cyclist'. But the rest of the time, I just want to get to work or out and about, in my normal everyday clothes. I'm just someone getting about on a bike. I'm not anti-Boris. I'm not pro Labour or Green or LibDem. I voted for the man in 2008. But he's let me and many many others down massively with his irresponsible lack of attention to detail on his cycling policy. He's encouraged more and more Londoners to cycle and he's not bothered to really understand why he's failing to make it any safer to do so.

This isn't about being a 'cyclist'. It's about being a responsible user of the roads and expecting the Mayor to be responsible and make the roads safe enough for people to use bicycles.

You need to rip up your policy book, Mr Johnson. And you need to start again.

I think it's time we call for another flash ride. Tomorrow (Friday) perhaps? 6pm. South side of Blackfriars Bridge. What do people think?