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Cycling accidents and near misses: Why the facts and figures don’t always add up

by Gareth Fullerton August 04, 2016

Cycling accidents and near misses: Why the facts and figures don’t always add up

Cyclists experience the trauma of near misses and road rage on a daily basis - but most of the time these ordeals go undetected.  Statistics would suggest that cycling accidents or ‘close call’ incidents are relatively uncommon.  Why? Because in many cases the jolts, bumps, falls and scrapes are brushed off without any report being logged and archived.
For many cyclists and motorists, they are cautionary tales rather than important indicators to the behaviour of road users.

The lack of reporting also means salient statistics on accident hot-spots are lost forever - information that could help save someone’s life in the future.  With the health benefits of cycling outweighing the risks by 20-1 (Hillman, 1993), and in the context of an increasingly health-conscious society – the general consensus is that there should be more cyclists on our roads.  After all, cycling is good for you, and the benefits for the economy are now being discussed in the corridors of power in local government.

Countries are forming policy goals to get people on bicycles in an attempt to improve the standard of living.  When you look at the discrepancy between the fear of cycling and the figures surrounding injuries, it makes you wonder why more people are not embracing pedal power as a means of travel.  Perhaps the answers could lie with analysing ‘near misses’.  How often do they happen? And are cyclists being put off because of them?
In this article, we look at what constitutes a ‘near miss’, and what impact it has on a cyclist.

RESEARCH

Rachel Aldred is a leading researcher in the field of cycling research.  Her 2016 paper, ‘ Cycling near misses: Their frequency, impact, and prevention’ , conducted an in-depth, exploratory examination of near misses in cycling.  Aldred’s research discovered there are far more complex issues underlying the published stats of cycling accidents.

She found that over 80 per cent of near miss incidents were caused by a “cyclist’s way being blocked (often necessitating swerving), a problematic pass, and a vehicle pulling in or out across a cyclist’s path”.  When the cyclists were asked what could have been done to prevent the incident, a staggering 83.2 per cent said either a change in road condition or the behaviour of another road user would have made their near miss preventable.
Aldred provided a breakdown and categorisation of the incidents by the types of behaviour that caused them:

BLOCKING

“Nearly half of BLOCK incidents involved road or infrastructure-related problems; for example, swerving to avoid a pothole or a barrier across a cycle path. Over a quarter involved an interaction with a pedestrian where, typically someone walked in front of a cyclist.”

PASSING

“These very common incidents tended to involve a motor vehicle (rarely, another cyclist) on a link section overtaking too closely. They were relatively likely to be ‘very scary’ and frequency suggests experiencing one such incident on alternate days’ cycling is normal in the UK. While ‘hooking’ incidents involving large vehicles are high profile and comprise a high proportion of London cyclist deaths (Talbot et al., 2014) overtaking incidents also kill and seriously injured.”

HOOKING

“Slightly less common – around one in 20 – were hooking incidents, with a cyclist in potential conflict with (usually) a left turning motor vehicle. These, with dooring and passing incidents, were the only three categories where over one in five was ‘very scary’. The relatively low proportion of ‘hook’ incidents contrasts with their more frequent appearance within city injury and death statistics. Around a third of recent London cyclist deaths were caused by a motor vehicle turning left across a cyclist’s path (Talbot et al., 2014).”

Cyclists may be familiar with some of these dangers - they may have experienced all of them.  It is this information that will help draft the blueprint for safer towns and cities across the world.  See.Sense is at the forefront of the smart cities campaign, using cutting edge technology to empower cyclists to influence change. We  are doing this through the collection of valuable and unique crowd-sourced data which will help our cities better plan and utilise their limited resources, improving transport conditions for everyone.

In Part II of this blog we will look at how ‘near miss’ statistics can help make towns and cities safer for cyclists, and how See.Sense is playing its part with its own innovative technology.
Have you ever had a near miss when cycling in your town or city? Share your experiences and stories in the comment section below.

Gareth Fullerton
Gareth Fullerton


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