Talk about blaming the victim.
That’s why I was fascinated by a recent government sponsored study from Britain, which reached the surprising conclusion that drivers are responsible for the overwhelming majority of serious bicycle collisions. And that only a tiny percentage result from cyclists running red lights or stop signs — despite what you may have read.
Or at least, surprising to many who spend more time behind the wheel than on them.
Conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory for the UK’s Department of Transport, the study found that only 2% of collisions resulting in serious injury were caused, at least in part, by cyclists running red lights and stop signs.
Another 2% resulted from failing to use lights after dark; wearing dark clothing at night was cited as a potential cause in just 2.5% of crashes. In fact, a full 78% of all serious cycling accidents — those resulting in serious injury or death — occurred during daylight hours; 80% were on dry roads in good weather conditions.
So while ninja cyclists may be twice as dangerous as red light runners, even they pale in significance compared to those motoring down the street in their hulking, smoke-belching mechanical behemoths.
According to an article in the Guardian’s bike blog, the study found drivers solely responsible in 60% to 75% of all crashes involving adult riders, and cyclists at fault in just 17% to 25%.
In other words, a driver is three times as likely to be at fault in a cycling collision. And bear in mind that those figures are based on an analysis of official police reports — which are highly unlikely to be biased in favor of cyclists.
While the recent study of cycling collisions from Fort Collins, Colorado, found that broadside collisions were the most common form of cycling accidents, this study concluded that many riders’ greatest fear is justified.
Over 25% percent of urban riders were struck from behind, while 40% of collisions that didn’t occur at an intersection were strike-from-behind collisions. Not surprisingly, in most accidents the cyclist was struck by the front of the vehicle.
And just 3% of serious collisions happened in bike lanes.
Read into that whatever you will.
A few other key points:
- 83% of serious cycling injuries involved a collision with another vehicle.
- In cases when drivers were at least partially at fault, 56% failed to “look properly” — in other words, failed to see a cyclist who should have been visible — while 17% turned in a poor manner and another 17% were cited as careless, reckless or in a hurry.
- When cyclists were found at least partially at fault, 43% failed to look properly, while 20% were entering the street from the sidewalk.
- Cyclists were more likely to be injured on week days than weekends, and during both morning and evening commute times (6 am – 9 am; 3 pm – 6 pm).
- Almost two-thirds of serious injuries occurred at or near intersections
- The severity of injuries increased with the posted speed limit.
That last point brings up the findings of another recent study published in the medical journal BMJ.
Researchers found that reducing the speed limit to 20 mph in certain sections of London resulted in a 41.9% drop in serious injuries and fatalities, including a 17% drop for accidents involving cyclists. And interestingly, the rate of injury did not go up for neighboring streets where the speed limit was not reduced; in fact, it dropped 8% — suggesting that lowering the speed limit may cause people to drive more safely throughout the surrounding area.
Just more proof that passing the Safe Streets Bill, which would have ended California’s absurdist practice of automatically raising speed limits on streets where most drivers speed, isn’t just a good idea.
It’s absolutely necessary.
Of course, some might argue that the UK isn’t the US, and London isn’t L.A. — although the large number of Brit expats in this city offers a reasonable argument to the contrary. And Britain’s largest cycling organization has objected to the TRL’s conclusion that universal helmet use would save 10 to 15 lives in the UK each year.
But conflicts between drivers and cyclists seem to be a worldwide phenomenon, and aside from driving on the wrong side of the road, British drivers — and cyclists — don’t seem to be much different from those in America.
And that’s not always a good thing.
You can download a free PDF of the TRL study by clicking here; registration is required.
Police release photos of a ballsy bike riding bandit who struck across the street from the new LAPD headquarters; maybe he didn’t know what that shiny new building was. Advice on defusing road rage through non-violence. Santa rides a bike throughout Los Angeles this year. LACBC celebrates a successful year of Car-Free Fridays with a Holiday Breakfast Ride this Friday. A Streetsblog reader offers a great suggestion to address cycling safety. A driver who killed an Anchorage, AK cyclist over a year ago while high on drugs is finally charged; evidently, justice delayed ≠ justice denied. Why not turn highways into bikeways? Just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get your bike. MIT cyclists get separated bike lanes. Evidently, the Safe Routes to School program really is working to keep children safer. Common causes of bike crashes and how to avoid them. Lance’s new carbon belt-drive single-speed bike. Finally, why is it socially acceptable to threaten cyclists? Why, indeed.