Cyclists pose more dangers than motorists, claims transport minister

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport made the statistically unsound claims in the House of Lords yesterday.
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In a debate in the House of Lords yesterday Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon claimed that cyclists pose more danger to “commuters” than “trucks and cars.” The Tory peer is the Under Secretary of State for Transport.

Lord Ahmad's anecdotal claim about the dangers posed by cyclists wasn't swallowed by his fellow Tory peer Lord Robathan who pointedly asked the transport minister to reveal the statistics for the number of motorists killed by cyclists in a year, adding that he’d also like to know how many pedestrians were killed by cyclists.

Lord Ahmad didn’t have those latter statistics close to hand (presumably the number of motorists killed by cyclists is roughly zero per year) but said he’d provide them in a written answer.

To save Lord Ahmad the effort here are the actual figures, as collated by his own department. Between 2010 and 2014 nineteen pedestrians were killed by cyclists and 431 pedestrians were injured. The great majority of these deaths and injuries happened when cyclists hit pedestrians crossing roads. Over the same period motorists killed 1203 pedestrians and injured 19,802.

For the benefit of Lord Ahmed 1203 is a much greater number than nineteen (1184 greater, in fact); and 19,802 is 19,371 more than 431. In other words, and this really shouldn't need to be pointed out to anybody never mind the Under Secretary of State for Transport, motorists kill and injure many more pedestrians than cyclists.

The debate in the House of Lords had been started by the Labour peer Lord Wills. He claimed that when he was an MP the issue of footway cycling was the second highest complaint from his constituents, with the highest being shitting dogs. He said “cycling on pavements — terrorising pedestrians — was the issue that incensed my constituents most in regular open meetings, apart from dog mess.”

“Pavement cycling” may be something that annoys but, statistically speaking, it’s not a significant threat to life. Between 2010 and 2014, three pedestrians were killed by cyclists on footways or verges. Clearly, that's less than one pedestrian killed per year by a cyclist on a footway. Still too many, of course, but when walking on pavements pedestrians have most to fear from motorists – 34 pedestrians are killed each year by motorists driving on footways or verges.

Lord Wills claimed that cyclists terrorising pedestrians “seems to be getting worse.” He said he had been threatened by a red-light running cyclist and wanted assurances from the transport minister that he would stop “bully boys on bikes terrorising pedestrians and bring some law and order to our pavements.”

It was then that Lord Ahmad made his claims about “commuters” being more in danger from cyclists than those in motor vehicles.

“I often said that the biggest challenge for a commuter in London was avoiding not trucks and cars but the cyclists who were possibly jumping red lights or riding on the pavements,” claimed Lord Ahmad.

Lord Taverne wasn’t convinced by Lord Ahmad’s claim, stating “the serious injuries caused by cyclists must pale into insignificance when compared to those caused by motorists." The Lib Dem peer added that “bicycles are the most efficient machine yet invented for turning energy into motion. Indeed, the bicycle has been accurately described as a kind of green car, which can run on tap water and tea cakes and, moreover, has a built-in gym.”

On this point Lord Ahmad was forced to concede: “The noble Lord raises the benefits of cycling, about which I agree with him."

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KSI stats from Reported Road Casualties Great Britain. Table RAS 300026

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