This statistic shows, so the argument goes, that cyclists present a negligible hazard to pedestrians, and that criticism of cycling is misplaced. Road safety effort should be directed to motor vehicles which are overwhelmingly responsible for deaths and injuries on the road. And of course, this is true; for example, according to the Department of Transport 2017 Great Britain traffic collision statistics (Table RAS10012), just under 1% of pedestrian fatalities were caused by collisions with bicycles. So why do I find this line of argument dispiriting?
A sole focus on fatalities will always downplay the problem cyclists can cause pedestrians. The proportion of *injuries* caused by cyclist collisions with pedestrians will be considerably greater that this “1%” figure. Simple physics (speed x mass) means that an impact between a bicycle and a pedestrian is less likely to kill than an impact between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian - but injuries, including serious injuries, are more frequent.
As the table below shows, the percentage of all serious injuries sustained by pedestrians resulting from a collision with a cyclist were considerably higher than 1%. The proportion of ‘slight’ injuries recorded for pedestrian/cyclist collisions is also more than double that for fatalities at 2.3%. However, this is almost certainly a very significant under-estimate of the ‘slight’ injuries caused by pedestrian-cyclist crashes. Many collisions which don’t involve a motor vehicle (and insurance implications) are unlikely to be reported to the police (and therefore officially recorded) especially if they don’t result in a serious injury.
Firstly, selective cherry-picking of statistics discredits the basically sound argument that the principal focus of road safety efforts should be on motor vehicles (rather than cyclists).
Secondly, we need to recognise the anxiety that cycling can cause pedestrians. While there seems to be little statistical or academic evidence on this, there can be no question that inconsiderate cycling - especially on pavements, or through pedestrian crossings - seriously intimidates many pedestrians; especially those who are blind, deaf, old or generally less confident and steady on their feet. Indeed, Peter Walker acknowledges in his video that pavement cycling can intimidate; but in the next breath describes it as “harmless”.
While it is wrong for the media and politicians to disproportionately focus on cyclists’ involvement in pedestrian collisions, it is also wrong for cycling advocates to simply dismiss the impact of inconsiderate cycling as negligible or irrelevant. A little more empathy from some cycling campaigners - such as on the lines of Suzanne Forup’s excellent recent blog - would not go amiss; it might also do more to win wider public support for more investment in cycling.