Typical British cycle infrastructure ‘failing to protect cyclists’

Typical cycle infrastructure in Britain is not keeping riders safe – and could in fact increase risk – according to the results of a recent study led by professor Rachel Aldred from the University of Westminster.

According to the study, funded by the Road Safety Trust, painted cycle lanes and shared bus lanes tended to increase the likelihood of injury, compared to there being no such infrastructure. 

Cycle infrastructure separated from traffic was better, but still did not reduce risk, the study found.

This was different from a related study in London, which found that good quality cycle tracks were strongly protective.

Other results highlighted the danger posed by intersections, with the worst types of intersections for cyclists being roundabouts. Typical UK roundabouts don’t have cycle infrastructure and have wide entrances and exits for motor vehicles, meaning that drivers are speeding up just when cyclists are most vulnerable. 

Petrol stations and car parks increased risk too – as did pedestrian guard railing, which was also found in an earlier TfL study to increase collisions, but is still being installed in towns and cities across the UK.

Like other research, the study found that there was ‘safety in numbers’: where more people were cycling, each individual cyclist was safer. Researchers say this highlights the additional safety benefit from creating routes and infrastructure that attract new cyclists.

Professor Aldred said: “These findings show that typical infrastructure used by cyclists is failing to protect cyclists in Britain and may even make things worse. 

“Studies in London and internationally show that good cycle infrastructure can reduce risk. But this research shows that typical UK cycling environments – like narrow advisory lanes, shared footways, and shared bus lanes – don’t keep cyclists safe.”

The study used an innovative ‘case-crossover’ method that looks at risk per cyclist. This allowed the researchers to distinguish between locations that have more injuries because there are more cyclists, and locations that have more injuries because each cyclist is at higher risk.

It used police data for people injured commuting in Britain in the 2017 morning peak. It compared the injury locations to locations randomly selected from their routes before they were injured. 

Because the researchers did not have actual routes, the Cyclestreets journey planner was used to model the routes the commuters followed.

06 May 2021