Cyclist deaths on European roads have not fallen at all since 2010 – report

February 05, 2020

At a time when getting people out of their cars and onto emissions-free transport is becoming more important, the roads are no safer for cyclists than they were 10 years ago, statistics indicate. Since 2010, deaths among car drivers and passengers have decreased by 24%, deaths among pedestrians have only fallen by 19%, but cyclist deaths have not fallen at all, according to a new report by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).

Not enough is being done to make cyclists safer on Europe’s roads, the ETSC concludes. The report says there were at least 51,300 pedestrians and 19,450 cyclists killed on EU roads between 2010 and 2018, and the figure may be higher as some deaths caused by cycle collisions may go unrecorded. It says part of cycling’s poor safety record is due to more people cycling and therefore more accidents, but it also says many governments, local authorities and motor vehicle manufacturers are failing to invest more heavily in measures to protect vulnerable road users.

Graziella Jost of the ETSC said: ‘The EU is facing a multitude of challenges: the climate emergency; road deaths and serious injuries; air pollution and obesity. Policies that improve the safety of cycling and walking can also make a major contribution to tackling all these challenges. Some EU countries, the Netherlands and Denmark in particular, are showing the way forward. If they can do it, so can the rest of the EU.’

The research revealed that half of all cyclists and pedestrians that die on EU roads are over 65. This may be because older people are less able to recover from serious injuries, yet Europe’s ageing population needs to stay active and mobile for health and wellbeing. ETSC says the challenge is how to improve safety while walking or cycling, particularly for high-risk groups such as elderly people and children.

The report recommends applying a hierarchy for urban planning that prioritises walking, cycling and public transport over private car use, as well as 30 km/h limits in areas with high levels of walking and cycling, supported by traffic calming infrastructure and enforcement measures. The authors are also calling on the EU to channel funds into road safety improvements such as safer city streets.

One development that will reduce the number of cyclists hit by trucks is the EU ‘direct vision’ standard, which will make truck drivers better able to see other road users, notably cyclists and pedestrians. The standard, part of the EU’s revised General Safety Regulation, was approved last year, but its application remains almost six years away and truck-makers are continuing to lobby to weaken it.

T&E’s freight director James Nix said: ‘Around 4,000 people die every year in truck collisions in Europe, 1,000 of which are cyclists and pedestrians. The European Commission found that improving the direct vision performance of trucks would save up to 550 lives per year, yet it is still allowing truck makers until 2026 to redesign truck cabs of new models and save more lives. London will enforce its direct vision standard by October this year, yet the EU has set January 2026 as its date for new models. National governments must now stand up to the truck makers trying to weaken the standard, or more people doing the right thing by walking and cycling will be needlessly killed.’