How dangerous is cycling?

The number of people visiting this blog seems to be on the increase, despite the fact I haven’t updated it for quite some time and I haven’t cycled to work for more than a month (owing to a chest infection and then a temporary move out of home while half my flat is refurbished). I’m hoping to be back on the bike in a week’s time when I finally get to move back home and take my bike out of storage.

In the meantime, if you’re a new visitor — and there seems to be plenty of you judging by my site stats these past few weeks — do feel free to introduce yourself in the comments. I’m always happy to hear from new readers, especially if you’re a newbie cyclist or considering taking it up.

Finally, there was a great article in the June 27 edition of The Independent about the state of cycling in the UK. This bit piqued by interest:

So how dangerous is cycling?

Statistically becoming much less so as more people take to two wheels.
Strength in numbers is a principal that cycling enshrines. In 2007 the
number of cyclists killed or injured on London’s roads was 19 per cent down
on 1994 – when the number of journeys by bike was half what it is today. The
signs are that motorists are adjusting their behaviour in response to the
increase in cycling activity around them, and cyclists are learning the art
of survival.

Deaths while cycling always attract publicity, but remain extremely rare when
put in the context of the millions of cycle journeys made each year. There
were 19 cyclists killed on London’s roads in 2006, 15 last year. Most
cyclist deaths occur when vehicles – particularly lorries – turn left
without the driver realising that there is a cyclist on their inside, with a
disproportionate number of women cyclists falling victim. Publicity
campaigns have targeted the danger and the fact that the London fatality
figure is dropping suggests that the message is getting through.

As cycle campaigners regularly point out, the benefits of cycling far outweigh
the risks, and now, it seems, the Government is joining the chorus.

You can read the full article here. [Thanks to Tlatet for the heads up.]


9 thoughts on “How dangerous is cycling?

  1. I’m one of those people pushing up your numbers, after googling ‘cycling in london’, in anxious anticipation of becoming a cyclist.
    Been putting it off for years because of feeling worried about getting it all wrong – getting the wrong bike, getting it nicked, not understanding the etiquette and pissing off other cyclists (your handy tips have helped there), and most importantly getting it wrong and getting squished by a left turning lorry. It’s all quite intimidating.
    Haven’t ridden a bike since I was nine and have never ridden on the road, so I’m going to get a free council cycling lesson and stick to the parks and quick journeys to the shops till I’ve got the hang of it. Any tips are welcome…


  2. GvH, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.
    Good luck with the cycling — once you do it there will be no looking back and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!! The cycling lesson will be a great help, I’m sure, as they’ll pass on tips that have been garnered from experience. When I started cycling I didn’t take any lessons and simply learnt the hard way.
    I’d suggest you grab a copy of “Cyclecraft” by John Franklin because it’s got everything you need to know about cycling in traffic.
    My top tips are simply:
    (1) Make sure you are visible on the road — so wear bright coloured clothing.
    (2) Don’t be afraid to “take” the lane — if you cycle too close to the kerb you’ll find cars will drive right beside you instead of giving you the space you need.
    (3) Make eye contact with drivers of cars, especially if you are going to pull out into a lane, because that way you know they’ve seen you and act accordingly.


  3. Thanks Kim, I’ve ordered myself a copy of Cyclecraft, and will soon be wobbling round the more deserted areas of South London’s parks.


  4. Get out there and have fun GvH! It’s an upward the spiral; the more often you ride, the more your confidence will bloom, you’ll get used to the interaction and behaviours of everyone else around you. Enjoy!


  5. I found your blog from googling “cycling in london” too.
    I would love to cycle to work and i’m giving it some serious consideration, there are already a few people that do and my brother already has the cycling bug (and a great bike too).
    The safety on the streets is what worries me the most, insurance can give some piece of mind with theft and damage…but not for when you’ve got a lorry/bendy bus (i hate them as a pedestrian already!) bearing upon you.
    I’m going to get that Cyclecraft book – there’s one on for £11 that was released 2007.
    Do you have any other sites/forums you’d recommend for London/City cycling?


  6. I’ve been cycling in London for two years now. It has done a lot to make my life in the city more bearable, but I am worried about the noticeable increase in aggressive cyclists: those who behave with total disregard for others and will either ignore or assault anyone who tries to remind them that the roads are not theirs alone. At the beginning, I would have said the biggest threat to cycling in London were van drivers. Now I would say: other cyclists. And it is definitely getting worse.


  7. I’ve been cycling in central London for ten years, the attitude of motorists has changed, the attitude of taxi drivers has not.
    Ten years ago I found the guts to cycle in zone 1 after attending Critical Mass (Google it), being surrounded by cyclists it was suddenly safe to ride on roads like Euston Rd, Kingsway, Embankment and even Hyde Park Corner.
    I’ve never looked back, but I still think twice about cycling any further out than zone 2 due to the speed of traffic.
    You need to be aggressive sometimes on London’s streets taking the lane and giving what you get, but the biggest problem I see again and again is bad cycling, I hate to say it but a minority of cyclists seem intent on undertaking cars and vans turning left even when they indicate! For their sake cycle lanes should be removed since they encourage people to ride in the gutter.


  8. I don’t bike in London or the UK. I’m in the USA… Bristol, TN -along the old mountains. Just wanted to say hi and wish you posted a little bit more. Tell us about the ride!


  9. Benji, the more cyclists there are on the road, the safer cycling becomes. Get the book, study up and then hit the road. You’ll love it! As for cycling forums, try
    mariano, I agree, there’s certainly a lot of idiotic cyclists with no road sense whatsoever that put others in danger. They used to make me angry, but I’ve entered a new Zen-like phase — and try just to keep out of their way. I also let off a lot of steam by venting about them on this blog. You might have noticed 😉
    Steve, yes, I think I’d be anxious cycling in areas outside of central London for the reasons you suggest. In fact, I notice that even if I cycle outside of my normal commuting hours within central London — ie. on the weekends or in the middle of the day — it feels much more scarier because the traffic behaves differently, by which I mean it just doesn’t know how to deal with cyclists.
    Tom, thanks for your comment. I usually only post here on the days when I cycle, so the lack of posts is simply a reflection of my lack of cycling (or my extreme laziness). I’ll try and cycle more often this month now that illness, a bathroom/bedroom refurb and an annual summer holiday are all out of the way!


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