As Mr. Venning said

The average motorist, stuck in traffic, is transformed into a one-driver anti-cyclist hate machine. After the death of another cyclist in Sydney, surely it’s time to take a more rational approach

The answer to any question containing the word “surely” is no.

Harsh but there it is. Cycling is an inherently dangerous activity. As is driving a car. Last number I saw were that regular cycling (ie commuting) has a 1 in 400 lifetime chance of causing death. And the lifetime chance of dying in a car crash is, if I’ve recalled this incredible number correctly, one in 100.

Traveling around is simply a dangerous thing to do.

56 comments on “As Mr. Venning said

  1. Doesnt sound the right way round in terms of bow risky they are.1 micromort is 10 miles by bike and 200 odd by car.

  2. “Cycling is an inherently dangerous activity”

    No it’s not.

    Normal, everyday commuting by bike on a segregated or dedicated cycle path is absurdly safe. Throw cars into the mix and the danger arises.

    So let’s get to the real point: cars are inherently dangerous, for those who drive them and for others who have to interact with them. However we clearly view the benefits of cars as outweighing the risks.

    Your actual statement should be “travelling around by motorised means is simply a dangerous thing to do”

    (And yes, I do commute by bike every day and yes, I also own a car and drive regularly. Just like the vast majority of cyclists in the uk)

  3. but halloowed be people travel a lot more in cars and a lot more so it’s going to be more risky overall.

    Also what the numbers don’t do is show behaviour and if you actually cycle/drive as recommended (like your grandmother essentially, within the speed limit, focused, indicating and actually following the rules) that would also reduce risk massively (not entirely as contrations lap, other people are on the road etc).

    However I’m sure that isn’t correct for either cars or bikes in the UK, the US maybe (where road deaths per capita are 4 times the amount). Could it have been involved in a serious accident?

    Or maybe in the 60s but safety standards in cars, a cultural shift to drink driving being unacceptable (whereas in the US it’s similarly illegal but rates are stunningly high because there isn’t the same cultural stigma attached to it) and road design changes have changes so massive drops in deaths have occurred..

    Cycling is a bit more dangerous, but much of that risk is balanced out by health benefits as well it’s worth mentioning. Also although cycling deaths have gone up, they are still quite low considering cycling has exploded as an activity.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245754/reported-road-casualties-in-great-britain-main-results-2012.pdf

    Just wait till driverless cars come in, we eventually make driving in public without a driverless cars or the assistance of at least some form of automatic safety system illegal and road deaths plummet be they car, cyclist or pedestrian.

  4. As the usual “does both” but actually far more time cycling since I don’t even own a car, the biggest daily threats to my life are other cyclists. Where, here in Germany, sub-Chinese standards of road discipline appear to hold sway. I particularly hate those who cycle on cycle paths on the wrong side of the road.

  5. Not cycling is actually more dangerous than cycling. Even accounting for those killed on bikes, cycling increase life span. Cycling is safe. Cycling in the presence of cars carries a risk. Cyclists have an incentive to ride safely, they are more likely to die if they don’t. Drivers are extremely unlikely to ever even see court never mind prison if they kill another road user, drivers benefit from driving in a risky way around vulnerable road users. Changing this balance by increasing the penalties for bad driving is necessary.

  6. magnusw: agree. Strongly.

    Bloke in Germany: what kind of armour-clad weapons-toting cyclists do you have over there? I come across lots of poor cyclists on the cycle paths here. Annoying, inconsiderate, inconvenient. But more dangerous than cars? Seriously?

    Or is it just that by cycling on cycle paths that you don’t come across any cars, so of course cyclists are the biggest danger to you? ( Rather like me saying that I think my cat is the bigger danger to me than a lion on the basis that I don’t have a lion in my house)

  7. Having been a cyclist and a car driver at various times (do neither any more) its a bit of give and take. Dangerous drivers, inconsiderate drivers, dangerous cyclists, inconsiderate cyclists. Majority are the majority of the time not interfering with each other. Plenty of idiots who do not care or cannot be bothered however.

  8. “cycling increases lifespan”

    That’s Worstall’s (other) fallacy. You’re assuming that cycling causes good health, whereas in fact good health causes cycling. No unfit person is going to try to ride a bike because they know they’ll be puffing by the end if the street.

    If you’re already healthy, switching to cycling (from any other mode of transport) will increase your risk of death.

  9. Greg: “Cycling is a bit more dangerous, but much of that risk is balanced out by health benefits as well it’s worth mentioning.”

    Die young & leave a great looking corpse (because you tried to go up the inside of a left-turning tipper truck), eh..?

  10. In my many years of cycling to work it became obvious to me that my main risk of death was being pushed into the path of a motor vehicle by a fellow cyclist. The proportion of incompetent, stupid, inattentive, selfish and reckless cyclists is enormous.

    And as for those who take cycling as a religion: self-regarding nincompoops, most of ’em – I wish they’d stick their religion up their arses.

  11. “In my many years of cycling to work it became obvious to me that my main risk of death was being pushed into the path of a motor vehicle by a fellow cyclist. The proportion of incompetent, stupid, inattentive, selfish and reckless cyclists is enormous.”

    Where the fuck were you cycling??

  12. Ok I accept Greg UK figures may differ , but I was talking about how risky in comparison.

    So all things considered( no caveats about’ if it werent for arseholes it would be fine’) substituting a car for a bike on average increases your risk, Yes?

  13. The guy in Sydney was killed by a bus. I say we should ban public transport. Or I say that the guy who died should have known that he should not go up the inside of a bus on a left turn.

  14. @Andrew M

    By your logic, no unfit person will cycle because they’ll get puffed out, but a fit person who cares about their health will cycle even though it will increase their risk of dying young?

    Cycling doesn’t increase your risk of dying, being a vulnerable road user amongst inattentive/aggressive car drivers increases your risk of dying.

    The Netherlands for example has a very low cyclist fatality rate because cyclist rarely have to interact with motor vehicles. This is one potential solution, increase the amount of segregated space available to cyclists. But that takes a while and costs money.

    In the short term drivers need to be taught that poor behaviour around vulnerable road users will be punished. Like a man standing in the street indiscriminately firing a gun, it is the person who introduces the hazard to the public space that has the responsibility to control it. Currently there exists a moral hazard in that the benefits of bad driving are accrued by the driver, they get where they want to be quicker; while the costs of bad driving are on the vulnerable road user, they have an unfortunate tendency to die. Ultimately it is up to the law to rebalance the moral hazard and that will require stiffer penalties for drivers who kill.

  15. @Glen,

    Cyclists seem to leave far less margin for error than drivers. Frankfurt driving is aggressive, it’s normal to me now but outsiders always remark on it. I know people who have stopped driving because of it. Yet the cycling is even worse.

    On the paths, people regularly use these the wrong way. You stick to the right in Germany, yet cyclists will routinely ride on the left hand path. I confess that I do this myself on one short stretch on my commute, but in such a way that I (being the one breaking the law) can get out of the way and not hinder anyone who is not breaking the law.

    Ironically those cycle paths make cars more of a hazard to cyclists, Because they are slightly set back from the road cars can enter or turn without bothering to check the path.

  16. magnusw: “In the short term drivers need to be taught that poor behaviour around vulnerable road users will be punished. “

    Cyclists who mow down pedestrians while cycling on pavements or shooting through red lights need…what? More hugs?

  17. @JuliaM: Need to be punished too. It vexes me that people on cycling forums take umbrage at any criticism of any cyclist, whatever their behaviour, even if criticism comes from the likes of Sir Chris Hoy.

  18. @juliam

    My point about the person introducing the hazard to the public space having the greater responsibility applies as much to cyclists vs pedestrians as it does cars vs cyclists or lorries vs cars.

  19. “Cyclists who mow down pedestrians while cycling on pavements or shooting through red lights need…what? More hugs?”

    Congratulations! You were the first to raise this bullshit point.

    Shall we look at the KSI for pedestrians at the hands of cyclists? And then compare them to those where vehicles are the cause? And then let’s look at which is the real problem.

    Pavement cycling is an annoyance but it isn’t causing hundereds of deaths a year, so why don’t we keep that in perspective.

    And if we want to start comparing breaches of road law then cyclist RLJ is again a distraction. I don’t do it myself, but I know that there are junctions which are so badly designed that skipping the red is actually the safer option for the cyclist. But yes JuliaM, why don’t you focus on that rather than the drivers breaking laws and driving in a way that is far more likely to cause death and injury.

  20. Have narrowly avoided hitting a cyclist jumping a red light. The torrent of abuse as I walked away….
    They are particularly deadly on zebra crossings.

  21. “Have narrowly avoided hitting a cyclist jumping a red light. The torrent of abuse as I walked away”

    Yep, that cyclist was obviously stupid and his own actions nearly caused his own injury or death. But again, this is anecdata. Look at the stats for cyclist KSI where the cyclist RLJ is the cause and compare them with those where motorist RLJ is the cause. Can you guess where the real issue is?

    I wish people would be honest and admit that they just don’t like cyclists and all statistics which go against that prejudice are ignored.

  22. Martin, in my anger I misread your post and missed that the cyclist nearly hit you, the pedestrian.

    MagnusW’s reply at 1.09 covers this, the responsibility lies with the road user introducing the danger (in this case the cyclist). But I stand by my point that the real danger is from cars and that cyclists are primarily an annoyance, not a danger.

  23. GlenDorran: “I wish people would be honest and admit that they just don’t like cyclists…”

    Kinda hard to do – my brother cycles. Lots of my colleagues do too. They do so properly.

  24. “They do so properly.”

    So do I and the overwhelming majority of cyclists. So like I said, why not focus on where the real danger is?

  25. Glendorran

    Thanks for leading the case for the defence today.

    Yes cyclists can be tits just anyone else and should be smacked by the law for it. There is simply no serious statistic though for cyclists causing death or serious injury on the roads.

    P.S. Cleeve Hill and West Lancashire in general were looking great early yesterday morning.

  26. As with almost every topic the tiny handful who misbehave get noticed – and stir up unreasonable hatred among Guardian columnists. I get annoyed by individual cyclists who ride on the pavement, jump red lights etc, but I don’t get turned into an anti-cyclist hate machine (but then I don’t get turned into an anti-capitalist hate machine when I see bank employees pillaging the capitalist bank shareholders so I am clearly disqualified from writing for the Grauniad).
    Most of the cyclists using pavements are a result of a campaign 20-odd years ago to “protect” child cyclists from dangerous motor cars. The feminists behind it reckoned that they could ignore any law, such as that against cycling on the pavement, that conflicted with feminist ideology (although I cannot see the gender issue in this one).
    Apart from mothers with kids, misbehaving cyclists are less common than misbehaving motorists – I see a lot more cars than cyclists jumping red lights.
    For the absence of doubt I am not myself a cyclist and have not been since I left college (when I was 22 the done thing was to walk to the office carrying an umbrella and doing the Times crossword as one walked – GlenDorran is, or should grateful to Nigel Althaus who established that cycling to work was acceptable for City figures when he was appointed Government Broker).

  27. @JuliaM “They do so properly.”

    It just seems such an odd thing to say. You speak of cyclists being angry; you seem to have some anger/dislike of cyclists but where is the anger towards the people who kill thousands of other road users each year, the drivers?

    The amount of anger and dislike directed towards cyclists by the rest of society is entirely disproportionate to any risk or harm they present.

    Anecdote alert: Last night riding home I entered a roundabout to go straight ahead, as I went around it a driver began to move out from the exit on my left, at the last moment he saw me and stopped with his nose sticking out about 2-3 metres. I continued past in front of him as was my right, he honked his horn at me, I looked back at him and he gave me a V sign.

    There are really only two explanations for his attitude but one or other of them usually explains why drivers have such grievance with cyclists. 1. He’s just a bigot who believes might is right and he shouldn’t have to give way to someone on a bike even if that cyclist is going straight on on the major road. 2.He was fearful, in the immortal words of Yoda, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred. He fucked up, he pulled out without looking properly and could have run me down, this gave him a fright, but he thinks of himself as a ‘good driver’ it couldn’t possibly have been his fault, so it must have been mine, so his fear is expressed as anger towards me. Even though from any objective point of view he failed to look properly and failed to give way to the right when entering a roundabout.

    What I think Glen and I and others are saying is that it is important to keep a sense of perspective. IIRC drivers kill about 100 pedestrians a year on the pavement, and it is poor driving which has been found to be the cause of about 85% of cyclist deaths, not poor cycling.

    As Timmy likes to say, incentives matter, cyclists have much more reason to take care than drivers do a driver who kills will probably never even see a court room.

    Eg. On average in a collision where somebody dies the person responsible will still be alive in >50% of cases. We’ll say 60%. The last few years about 2,000 road deaths per year, making 1,200 potential “causing death by” prosecutions, in 2011 only 463 were proceeded with http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2012-07-05b.114752.h

  28. @ JuliaM
    I might add that the only time I was hit by a cyclist I was more worried about him than myself. The council had failed to put up a notice on the cycle path that it was merging with a footpath after an underpass so he turned the corner and started uphill fast (the poor old guy needed the momentum to get him uphill) before we saw each other and I tried to jump out of the way and he tried to swerve – glancing blow and we both hit the ground, but I hit it with less forward velocity and no bike, so my first reaction to was to check if he was damaged. Generally if a cyclist hits a pedestrian the cyclist is likely to be more hurt than the pedestrian.

  29. Whether cyclists are, on average, more assholish than drivers or vice versa, this guy’s solution to the problem of cyclists getting hit by cars is just not realistic. Local governments simply cannot afford to install dedicated bike paths everywhere. They’re ruinously expensive and only valued by a tiny minority of cycling enthusiasts.

  30. @BiCI
    All social groups have assholes, indeed, fundamentally the issues are not cars vs cyclists but assholes vs considerate people. Though for everyone’s sake it is preferable for inconsiderate assholes to be on bikes than driving cars.

    Given that a study in Denmark showed that cycling produces a net social gain and driving a net social loss, the point should be that local governments can’t afford not to install cycling infrastructure.

    Page 18
    http://www.cycling-embassy.dk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Bicycle-account-2010-Copenhagen.pdf

  31. The average motorist, stuck in traffic, is transformed into a one-driver anti-cyclist hate machine.

    That sounds kind of awesome. Where can I obtain one of these “motor cars”?

  32. john77: “…– I see a lot more cars than cyclists jumping red lights.”

    My experience is a total reversal of yours – in fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a vehicle do this. Saw two cyclists do it on my shopping trip just this morning.

  33. “Ironman
    May 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Glendorran

    Thanks for leading the case for the defence today.

    Yes cyclists can be tits just anyone else and should be smacked by the law for it. There is simply no serious statistic though for cyclists causing death or serious injury on the roads.”
    I agree 100%. Sometimes we have to use anecdotes but in this case there is data.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13040607

    There are very few cases of cyclists killing pedestrians (those who do should be punished more severely) but you are far more likely to be killed by a terrorist than a cyclist.

  34. “My experience is a total reversal of yours – in fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a vehicle do this. Saw two cyclists do it on my shopping trip just this morning.”

    And as pointed out above, that really isn’t a risk to anyone other than themselves (and may in fact actually make them safer). Equally, many cyclists make the rational choice to cycle on the pavement as it makes them safer and the chance of killing/injuring a pedestrian is low. So why are you getting so worked up?

  35. @John77, your response is simply reasonable human behaviour as enshrined in law. Your first responsibility when involved in an accident is, if in a position to do so, to ensure that the other parties involved are uninjured or receive medical attention if injured, completely regardless of fault. Did so a year ago with the motherfucker and his numerous brood passengers of underclass lowlifes that wrote off my beloved low-mileage future-classic Alfa GT, and made a sport out of claiming the maximum possible off his insurance company later. Had he been a cyclist, he would have been dead, of his own fault.

    The whole “jumping red lights” thing is a total distraction. There are a few places and cases where you have a trade-off between obeying the law and ensuring personal safety. You know what I do in those cases? With due regard to the safety of others, I ensure my personal safety. And if some copper wants to fine me for it, he’s welcome to do so, but I’ll invite him to let a judge decide against me before paying, and absent an injunction or daily patrols at the time and place will continue thus.

    I am not in favour of cycle paths in general. They confuse motorists who are mostly crap at lane discipline and don’t regard a cycle lane as a “proper” lane anyway.

  36. Glendorran, was thinking more of that cyclist almost causing injury to me. I get hit by a bike its going to at least hurt. Have been knocked down (well, arm hit so stick goes sideways so I fall) on a zebra crossing from a bike. Car drivers had to help me stand and get to side of road!

    Some right idiots around, some drive and some ride. The car drivers can be more aware of others.

  37. @magnusw – “Given that a study in Denmark showed that cycling produces a net social gain and driving a net social loss, the point should be that local governments can’t afford not to install cycling infrastructure.”

    Bike lanes are dandy I’m sure, but there are an almost infinite number of things that proponents can plausibly claim to be a “net social good” and the taxpayer cannot fund them all. If you want bike lanes, you have to convince those who hold the purse strings that they are more important than a whole host of other worthy sounding projects supporting schools, public safety, parks, swimming pools, etc. And that’s a tough sell when so many people (myself included) simply have no interest in cycling.

  38. Want to cut cycling deaths?

    Make cyclists hold a HGV licence before they can rise a bike.

    The number of cyclists who get squished by coming up the left side of left turning trucks is really quite insane, considering how easy it is not to get in that position…

  39. As someone who has been campaigning for segregated cycling infrastructure for a while now, I’m only too aware of the authoritiies’ ambivalence to the matter, meanwhile they keep pouring money into costly road building schemes that never seem to solve the congestion problem, it’s almost as if they’d never heard of induced demand.

    However if they can piss away £100m on three miles of bypass between Hastings and Bexhill, which is more than the national budget for cycling, there is still room for negotiation.

  40. @theProle

    Because people who hold driving licences are proven never to kill or be killed?

    People do stupid, unthinking things, and they always will and as anyone with a bit of experience in trying to prevent death and injury to operators of any type of machinery will tell you, relying on the user to not kill themselves or anyone else is not going to work , you have to engineer potential points of conflict out of the system.

  41. @magnus m 3:32pm

    “Anecdote alert: Last night riding home I entered a roundabout to go straight ahead, as I went around it a driver began to move out from the exit on my left, at the last moment he saw me and stopped with his nose sticking out about 2-3 metres. I continued past in front of him as was my right, he honked his horn at me, I looked back at him and he gave me a V sign.”

    Let’s look at this scenario from another point of view. The car driver could have halted at the entrance to the roundabout. But on a busy roundabout, he could still be sitting there an hour later. So it’s not uncommon to partially enter the roundabout & rely on the courtesy of other motorists to let one out into the traffic stream. It’s part of the give & take of responsible driving. Something many cyclists don’t follow. One slows or stops, ceding priority to allow a car to exit from a side road. Maybe crossing to turn into the opposite lane. A cyclist passes on one’s nearside, swerves around the front of the turning vehicle, giving the driver a mouthfull of abuse & pedals his self righteous way up the road.

  42. Sure there’s give and take but that’s not at all what happened, the roundabout was empty but for the two of us and my only reaction was to glance back when he honked his horn. He simply failed to look properly and scared the crap out of himself.

  43. “It’s part of the give & take of responsible driving. Something many cyclists don’t follow”

    … And neither do many drivers. But as has been pointed out repeatedly, the danger is from motorised vehicles and to cycles and pedestrians, therefore drivers have even more responsibility to drive carefully.

    At a roundabout you stop at the entrance and give priority to traffic from the right.* Those are the rules and they are supposed to help avoid situations like magnusw experienced.

    If you want to start making up some unwritten rules for the road then you are creating even more danger and frankly you are heading into Ritchie territory.

    *of course the Dutch do the right thing by designing out the danger at roundabouts by segregating vehicles, bikes and pedestrians.

  44. “JuliaM
    May 10, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Because I might be the pedestrian they hit?

    Why not buy a lottery ticket – they chances of winning is about the same as being hit and killed by a cyclist.

  45. “If you want to start making up some unwritten rules for the road then you are creating even more danger and frankly you are heading into Ritchie territory.”

    But there are unwritten rules for the road. Have been for generations & it’s the exercising of them avoids the roads being permanently gridlocked. Ceding ones priority at junctions is one of them. If we didn’t, no-one would ever be able to exit a sideroad onto a busy main road or cross the traffic stream.

  46. Ceding ones priority? I wish you wouldnt. It makes you unpredictable which equates to dangerous.

  47. @magnusw

    My point (and I wasn’t suggesting it with a great deal of seriousness), is that lots of cyclists don’t seem to understand either the visibility issues you have in a HGV (particularly artic units), or which bits of road they a HGV will occupy when performing particular manover.
    It’s either that, or you conclude that the large numbers of cyclists who end up under HGVs every year are homicidal manics.

    I don’t mind spending a few quid sending a artic or two round the schools system, so kids can sit in and see just how little you can see in some situations(it might make them better car drivers too), but I’m less than convinced we should be spending millions re-designing city roads so as to prevent idiots on bikes encountering the consiquences of their actions.

  48. theProle:

    I agree that such sessions would useful. But the key point is designing out the danger as much as possible.

    Interestingly enough, Edinburgh council are running a pilot programme where they are sending their HGV drivers out on bikes to experience the city streets from a cyclist’s perspective.

    An acquaintance saw the first group pedalling up Leith Walk, in full hi-viz and accompanied by cycle trainers. He said that they looked absolutely shit-scared. Hopefully they’ll be a bit more understanding of cyclists in future.

    But Lothian Buses (who are extremely good at driver training) have also run open days where people get to sit in the bus driver’s seat whilst others cycle round the bus, giving them an opportunity to see the blind spots for themselves. An extremely eye-opening session for those of us who did it.

  49. “My experience is a total reversal of yours – in fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a vehicle do this.”

    I do. Back in about 2004, I saw the SUV ahead of me go straight through a red light without stopping. It was the junction on my daily commute with multiple lights, where people who didn’t know the route would sometimes get confused and think the right turn light was actually the straight ahead light.

    About three years before that, I saw someone else do it.

    Cyclists? Pretty much every day.

    As for ‘but cyclists never kill pedestrians’, about a year before I left the UK, I was walking out of a shop doorway in a pedestrianized zone when some asshole went blasting by a few inches from me with a kid sitting on his handlebars. Had I been a split second earlier, the kid and I would both have gone flying, and at least one of us might have ended up in hospital. In an area from which cars had been banned so pedestrians would be safe.

    But, hey, it’s all anecdotal, and we probably wouldn’t have died, so it doesn’t matter.

    When I was a kid, we were expected to take a cycling test so we wouldn’t do stupid things and get ourselves killed. Now, though, many British cyclists seem to consider themselves Shock Troops Of The Glorious People’s Revolution, giving it to The Man in his Evil Motor Car. I had some friends in a cycling club in the 90s who did little but cycle out to a country pub each weekend for a few beers, but then the Glorious Revolutionaries took over the club committee and it all became about campaigning against Evil Motorists. They left soon after.

  50. “But, hey, it’s all anecdotal”

    Looking at the statistics, yes it is.

    “When I was a kid, we were expected to take a cycling test so we wouldn’t do stupid things and get ourselves killed”

    And yet, despite this test, cyclists were still killed.

    “but then the Glorious Revolutionaries took over the club”

    As noted above, there are arseholes everywhere. Most people just want to get on with their lives safely.

  51. The statistics say that almost all (99.6%) pedestrians killed on the road are killed by motor vehicles, and almost all (99%) pedestrians killed on pavements are killed by motor vehicles. And that the annual number of cyclists killed has declined steadily from 805 in 1950 to a little over 100 a year now.

    The car driver could have halted at the entrance to the roundabout. But on a busy roundabout, he could still be sitting there an hour later. So it’s not uncommon to partially enter the roundabout & rely on the courtesy of other motorists to let one out into the traffic stream. It’s part of the give & take of responsible driving. Something many cyclists don’t follow. One slows or stops, ceding priority to allow a car to exit from a side road. Maybe crossing to turn into the opposite lane.

    On a bicycle on a busy roundabout, one does not slow or stop or change lanes unexpectedly. You’ve probably never experienced the moment of terror when an oblivious driver accelerates towards the small area of road occupied by you, your bicycle, and your high-visibility clothing.

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