Transport for London’s latest Travel in London report is out – the fourth.
In the section on ‘Road Safety’, we are told that
The year 2010 was the target year for both national and more stringent London-specific targets for the reduction of road casualties to be assessed (in absolute terms, comparing total casualties rather than casualty rates) against the average for the period 1994-1998.
One of these ‘stringent’ targets was to reduce the absolute number of London pedal cycle KSIs (killed or seriously injured) by 50%, against that 1994-98 baseline.
This target has not been met, as TfL admit -
the actual reduction achieved was 18 per cent.
Some way short of that 50% reduction. But TfL do have an excuse -
However, the substantial growth in cycling, which had doubled since the early 1990s, implies a much higher reduction in the collision risk per trip.
Fair enough, you might say – more people are cycling, so it’s not surprising that the absolute number of people being killed or seriously injured has not declined by as much as we would hope, and the target has been missed.
But this begs the question – surely some growth in cycling was accounted for when the target was set? If it was not, then the required reduction in the absolute number of people killed or seriously injured while cycling could have been achieved simply by a 50% drop in the number of people using bicycles, compared to the 1994-98 baseline – without any genuine increase in safety. Indeed, when the target is an absolute number, it almost gives a perverse incentive to not encourage more people to cycle. Transport for London should have been aiming for growth in cycling, and for the target they have been set by the Department for Transport – it’s a bit weak to use partial success on one front as an excuse for failure on another. A target is a target – and it has not been met.
In any case, is cycling even getting safer in relative terms, as Transport for London would like to have us believe?
According to the same report, the number of cycling ‘journey stages’ in London increased from 0.51 million in 2009, to 0.54 million in 2010 – an increase of nearly 6% (Table 3.6, p.63).
But if we refer to Table 6.1 on page 146 of the report, we see that cycle KSIs have increased from 433 in 2009, to 467 in 2010. An 8% increase in casualties.
It’s worth noting two other standout features from this data.
- KSIs for all other mode users have decreased, in most cases by over 10%, while cycling KSIs, alone, have increased (pedestrian journey stages are up, overall, by 0.9% in 2009-10, while car journey stages fell 1% over the same period. See page 24 of the report, and the comments below).
- ‘Slight casualties’ have also increased markedly, by 5% across London – up by 1250 over 2009-2010 – which to me is suggestive of an increased rate of ‘collisions’. Put this ‘background’ against the KSI pattern and it’s not hard to work out what’s happening.
But the standout feature is the 8% increase in the number of cycle casualties, which actually outstrips the increase in the number of journey stages over the same period. It’s clear that – for 2009-2010, at least – cycling was getting less safe, in both absolute and relative terms.
Given that we have just seen one of the worst years for cycle fatalities in some time, I’m not sure 2010-2011 is going to turn out any better.
Thanks to Jim Gleeson for bringing the report to my attention