There are two main sources of information on road traffic incidents causing injury and involving cyclists; both have their strong and weak points. Police incident records, known as STATS19 reports, give a specific location for the incident and a brief, sometimes too brief, narrative on what happened. In many cases, from reading these reports, it is possible to work out who was at fault in an incident. We however know that there is a degree of underreporting and the police themselves have some concerns as to the accuracy of reports. They are used by the Council’s Highway and Transport Management department to plot the location of incidents on their mapping website, analyse trends and rank contributory factors.
The Council’s Directorate of Public Health also produce figures for emergency admissions of Bristolians to hospital due to transport related “accidents” (their use of the term). Whilst these figures only cover Bristol residents and cover their travelling anywhere in the country, the findings are considered to be representative of incidents occurring in Bristol. Whilst thought to be more comprehensive than the police’s reports, incidents are not identifiable by street location and, while the STATS19 records identify the types of road user, they don’t identify the factors causing the road traffic injuries.
So what do emergency admission stats tell us about cyclists and road traffic incidents in Bristol?
In 2014 44 cyclists were admitted to hospital as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles. Separate studies by BCyC members of incidents in Gloucester Road and Cabot Ward show these to be overwhelmingly caused by motorists. 113 were admitted as a result of non-collision transport incidents. Given the lack of narrative or the identity of specific locations, it is difficult to pin down causes and propose remedial actions for these “non collision accidents”. Plotting them against time shows peaks in December and June and a 2010 survey, biased towards commuters, suggested that 25% of incidents were the result of ice. But that still leaves a huge number unaccounted for. As far as trends are concerned, in the last five years an average of just under 40 cyclists per annum were hospitalised as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles. This compares with an average of just over 27 per annum for the years 2003 – 2007 (the earliest years for which we have figures). Whilst it is difficult to accurately correlate these figures to the increase in cycling in the city, given cycling commuting figures have doubled they would not seem to suggest that cycling has not got more dangerous but neither can it be said that they demonstrate “safety in numbers”.
With regard to pedestrians, in 2014 73 were injured as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles compared with 5 injured in collisions with cyclists. Put another way, 93.5% of pedestrians admitted to hospital were injured in collisions with motorists compared to 6.5% injured in collisions with cyclists. The latter figures include those injured when stepping off the pavement and into the path of cyclists as well as those injured by pavement cyclists (it is not possible to breakdown the figures further). The figures show that the overwhelming number of pedestrian casualties are caused by collisions with motorised vehicles and, because lower collision speeds cause lesser injuries, provide clear evidence of the need for 20 mph enforcement.