Cycling deaths on Irish roads return to single digits in 2015

— Majority of cycling deaths on rural roads
— Three of the collisions involved no other vehicles 

Deaths of people using bicycles on Irish roads returned to single digits last year. Provisional figures show that nine people lost their lives while cycling in 2015 compared to 12 in 2014.

The Road Safety Authority has said that this is a 31% decline in cycling deaths on 2014 — while some commentators online have pointed out that decline is hard to analyse given the low numbers, the level of deaths last year is close to the average across the last ten years (9. 2).

In Dublin, the number of deaths returned to a single death in 2015 after spiking to three deaths in 2014 — the low level of deaths in the city has happened at the same time as large increases in the numbers of people cycling in and around the city.

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In a review of the fatal collisions in 2015, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said: “In three cases, no other vehicle was involved, and all other collisions involved cars.” All of those killed were aged between 35 and 75, with 44% aged 60 or over. All collisions took place between 9am and 7.30pm and all occurred in hours of daylight, the RSA said.

It added that “Six [of the nine cycling] fatalities occurred on rural roads (80km/h speed limit or greater).” Three of the collisions happened on roads with 100km/h speed limits, another three on 80km/h roads, and remanding three were on were on roads with limits of “60 km/h or less” (one of these were confirmed by other sources to be a 50km/h road).

The RSA said: “A review of situational factors (where available) was also conducted. Two fatalities occurred at a roundabout, one occurred at junction, and one occurred as a car moved out on to the main road; there was one fatality at a pedestrian crossing and one which resulted from a car taking avoidance action.”

The deaths include:

  • January 10: A 67-year-old man, Matt Walsh, died after he was in a collision with a motorist driving a car at Knockakeery, a rural area south of Westport in Co Mayo.
  • May 16: A single-vehicle collision resulted in the death of a 71-year-old man who was cycling with a group when he came off his bicycle and struck the ground on a rural road near Castletownbere, Co Cork.
  • June 30: A 62-year-old man, Eugene Maher, was killed in hit and run in Clontarf in Dublin while he was cycling across the bust junction of the Clontarf Road and Howth Road in Dublin city. It was reported in November that 26-year-old Christopher Coleman was charged with dangerous driving causing death, failing to remain at the scene, and driving without insurance and a licence. He is set to stand trial.
  • August 6: A 46-year-old man, Kevin Smith, died when cycling after he was in collision with a driver of a car on the N67 in a rural area between Kinvara and Ballindereen in Co Galway.
  • October 1: A 40-year-old woman, Gayle McConkey, died after a collision with a driver of a car close to the entrance to the Fort Field, Killerisk Road in the town of Tralee, Co Kerry.
  • October 17: A 42-year-old man, Adrian Mullan, died in a collisions with a van driver and two bicycles on the Gleneely to Redcastle road in Moneydarragh, Co Donegal. A second man who was cycling with him was brought to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
  • November 15: A man in his 30s on a bicycle was killed in a collision with a motorist driving a car on the N22 at Scart, Farranfore, Co Kerry. He was among a group of cyclists when the collision happened.

Over the weekend we were unable to confirm the remaining two deaths, both listed as single-vehicle collisions. On Saturday, the Gardai press office said that they do not have any further breakdown in relation to this, while the Road Safety Authority did not respond to emails before this article was published.

On February 4, 2015 a collision left a 45-year-old female cyclist fighting for her life after a motorist driving a Opel Astra colliding with the victim at 6.45pm at the junction of Malahide Rd and Greencastle Road in north Dublin. The Garda press office said that the woman survived and a file has been forwarded to the DPP in relation to the collision.

On March 20, 2015 there was a collision between a bicycle and car on the Leopardstown Road in Sandyford, Dublin. The 38-year-old man who was cycling involved in the collision with the motorist was described at the time as in a critical condition, the Garda press office confirmed that man survived, but no further details are available at this time.

MORE: Provisional Review of Fatalities 2015 Final

21 Comments

  1. I’m glad to see that deaths are down overall. Are there any stats on the circumstances surrounding road collisions, ie is there any information on who might have been in the right or wrong when there’s a collision between a car and a bike? Do the Gards keep such information?

    I was hit by a car in Sep 2013. It was a weekend morning on a quiet suburban road with no visibility issues at all. The person in the car was 100% at fault. It went to court and the person was found guilty of some minor infringement and was fined €100 with no points on their licence. What do the Gards have on file in relation to that collision I wonder? Do they have it listed as the driver was at fault and would that information be searchable?

    For interest: I suffered head injuries, brain damage (now have migraines, word-association problems, trouble concentrating & other issues), crushed and fractured vertebra, crushed and prolapsed intervertebral disks, 4 broken ribs, broken collar bone, as well as all the usual soft tissue injuries at the time. I’ve been in constant unrelenting pain ever since, and it seems that I will be in pain forever. My life has been totally changed for the worse. Because I had just come back to the country a month before, I had yet no medical insurance and I’ve had to fork out over €12K in expenses since then (it’s still ongoing).

    And for causing all that you get fined a paltry €100 and no points on your licence ?!?! FFS, not having an up to date NCT will get you 3 points. The NCT is all about safety and preventing injuries and deaths, but apparently actually going out and causing serious bodily harm with a car, well, that’s not so important.

    When a friend of mine heard how much the person was fined, he joked that he had always wondered what it would be like to run someone over, and offered me €150 if I’d let him run me down. It actually made me laugh because it was such a sad indictment of our ‘justice’ system.

  2. Hi Cian, do you know if there are any stats released for serious / life changing injuries?

    @Citizen Wolf, wow sorry to hear your story. Have you thought about approaching any journalist who may be able to do a piece on this?

  3. @ Citizen Wolf – sorry to hear about what happened to you.

    Officially fault can only be determined by the courts, so it’s hard to get a list of such together.

    In the case of damages you could have tried to make a civil law claim for damages and the cost of such or claim for the same of the driver’s insurance (not sure if you still can at this stage). The first stage these days is to make a claim via the state body http://www.injuriesboard.ie/

    Re the criminal law side of things — sadly your case sounds like many others where there is often only a prosecution where the driver also caught drunk or driving while banned or, like in your case, using an unsafe car.

  4. @ Austin — serious injures not resulting in death are harder to track because they are not complied as quickly centrally by the Gardai and only a small number of the overall serious injures are ever reported to them because many don’t involve cars etc.

    Some people disagree with me, but I also think that there’s issues with the medical classification of serious injuries. For example, according to a HSE study:

    “The RSA’s definition of serious injury is an injury for which the person is detained in hospital as an inpatient, or any of the following injuries whether or not detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, severe cuts and lacerations, or severe general shock requiring medical treatment 2. For the purpose of this study, only those warranting hospital inpatient admission were studied as there is no national computer information system on those presenting to EDs or general practitioners (GPs) with injuries resulting from RTCs.”

    That’s very broad. People are often detained in hospitals with little wrong with them and often recover fully, so the definition does not differ between then an somebody who has, for example, lost a leg or are in pain for the rest of their life.

    Link to HSE study: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Publications/HealthProtection/Public_Health_/RTC-related_Hospital_Admissions_2005-2009,_A_Report.pdf

    I’m aiming to do more work on this but ahead of that is sorting out and following up on cycling deaths — there’s a lot to be done with data and researching outcomes (ie, was their a court case or inquest, what happened etc).

  5. We are being badly served by the HSE which has the data for acute hospital admission of cyclist casualties to a bed following on from a RTC (i.e. serious injuries).

    We know a statistical unit in the HSE actually GIS plots this data – we have seen some of the output. Is it still operational as a unit or has austerity caused its demise?

    Cyclist.ie has called on the HSE to publish this GIS plotted data in public in a timely manner (see our Facebook page this week). We have a right to know about the RTCs – where are they happening (rural vs urban); numbers of serious injuries/y; type of collision (how many ‘doorings’, etc.), vehicle type (SUV/4×4, HGV, bus, coach, taxi, etc), etc.

    We know that An Garda fails to detect and record all RTCs involving serious injury (i.e. hospital bed admission) to cyclists so the HSE has to do its bit.

  6. I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to Citizen Wolf.

    As for the data, the trend in fatalities, as predicted by many, seems to have reverted to the mean, with 2013’s total of 5 and 2014’s total of 12 looking somewhat anomalous. As alluded to in the text, the RSA’s habit of looking at year-by-year variations is not really very meaningful when dealing with small numbers, as they can usually jump around a lot in percentage terms by simple random variation.

    The long-term trend remains convincingly downwards. On the other hand, there may be a hidden story, not shown by the stats, of total or near-total abandonment of independent travel by the vulnerable. The RSA said recently that the numbers of people being killed on the road is the only way we can measure success or failure. This is not an adequate way of judging where we are going as a society.

  7. @Cian
    Yes, I’m trying to take a civil case. More stress on me and money I’ll have to pay out if things go awry.

    My post was more to highlight cases like mine which can change a person’s life for the worst, forever, and yet it probably goes completely under the radar when it comes to official reports as per your post.

    As you say, blame can only be officially decided by the courts. In my case it was (with minimal repercussions for the person at fault) but I’d still like to know how easy it is to find out this data. And of course we’re in an even worse situation, because a pitiful few cases go to court, so we effectively have no data on the vast majority of collisions.

    @Mike
    If you’re correct in regards to the HSE only keeping records for hospital admissions to a bed, then people like me won’t even be recorded as I never made it to a bed. I stayed on a trolley. The lack of proper stats on all this is a disgrace (aside from the joke of how the justice system regards cases like mine). How can we improve road safety if proper stats aren’t being compiled? Absolutely appalling situation.

  8. Just to clarify my comment above – I never became an inpatient. I stayed in A&E on a trolley. I have always been treated as an outpatient, so I don’t think cases like mine would even make it into the type of report (hospital admissions 2005-2009) you linked to in your comment above Cian.

  9. Sorry to disagree with you Cian but the number of fatalities, after falling for nearly two decades from 1990, has increased every year since 2010-11 based on the 3 year or 5 year average. The RSA has failed to identify this trend because it only compares year end total with year end total. It suits the RSA to do it this way as they can congratulate themselves on how much safety has improved but I think their misleading analysis has more to do with lack of expertise on their part and disinterest in cyclists rather than a deliberate attempt to distort the results.

    The situation with injuries is different. There was virtually a 300% increase in 6 years between 2006 and 2012 but since then, the RSA has published no data. It begs the question why?

  10. No problem with disagreeing with me at all.

    I’d still look at the longer term trend (still downwards). The low numbers involved makes it more important to do so.

    However, one possible worrying trend could be an increase in deaths outside of Dublin (ie the rest of Ireland when Dublin is excluded).

  11. “The situation with injuries is different. There was virtually a 300% increase in 6 years between 2006 and 2012 but since then, the RSA has published no data.”

    It’s not all that useful to group serious and minor injuries together. There was a big spike in *minor* injuries in 2012. There was a clear but much smaller rise in serious injuries that year.

    To be fair to the RSA, the delay may be down to the Gardaí, or some other body.

  12. And that’s a problem – we have no idea what the numbers are in relation to minor injuries, serious injuries, whether injuries are recorded at all, and by whom, and under what circumstances.

  13. The injuries the RSA refer to are those reported on by Gardaí, I think (Road Traffic Collision reports). Indeed, the assessment of severity is done by a Garda, not a medical professional.

    I think you could regard it as a direct measure of fatalities, but only an index of injuries, especially minor injuries. Since it’s gone unchanged in years, trends at least probably have some meaning.

  14. Just to clarify what we in Cyclist.ie are seeking is data for serious injuries (admissions to a hospital bed from an ED) independent of those recorded (and classified) by the Garda because we know its data is not reality (Bedford Report 2011 for HSE).
    The HSE has the data. Its quite simple to put it out in public. Even better to GIS plot it.
    The RSA data is obtained from Garda so not appropriate under these circumstances.
    Proper data recording of serious injuries happening to cyclists is a central action in the NCPF under Policy #19.3.
    Why has there been zero progress on this serious issue for cyclists?
    We need to keep focused on this lack of progress and demand action from DoTTAS, Garda HQ, RSA and HSE in 2016 – more than half way through life of NCPF!
    How can the RSA make policy for safer cycling without proper data? Fatalities are not the full story.

  15. Very clear, Mike, thanks!

  16. @Mike
    Very much agree with you there. How can one make proper decisions to improve safety without sufficient and comprehensive data.

    Wait…. I know….. let’s make everyone (including pedestrians) wear Hi-Vis, That’ll do it. There’ll be no more ‘accidents’ then.

    https://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/cyclists-need-more-situational-awareness-and-training/

  17. When you don’t know what to do then reach for the cloak of hi-vis! Sure it works like magic. A force-field to protect us.

  18. @ Cian
    Hopefully you will be successful in getting more information on the other two single-vehicle deaths. While a lot has been written about accidents involving cars, buses, trucks and bikes, I can’t remember seeing much analysis of accidents where no other vehicle (or another bike) was involved. I know at least one from 2014 and the one on 16 May last year involved cyclists out on training spins.

    @ Citizen Wolf
    Sorry to hear about your terrible accident. Was the driver of the car insured and, if so, what was the attitude of the insurance company? I had a much less serious accident a few years ago and wasn’t happy with the offer made. It was referred to the Injuries Board http://www.injuriesboard.ie/ and they recommended a significantly higher figure. Rather than go to Court, the higher figure was accepted and paid out. I never heard whether the Gardaí took any action against the driver or whether it made it into the statistics for the year. The Garda who attended the scene did pass on the driver’s insurance details and, based on talking to witnesses, confirmed that the accident was fully the drivers fault.

  19. @Liam
    The insurance company sent me a letter asking me to get in contact with them. They should not have done this and so I ignored their letter.

    If you didn’t hear from the Gards then they didn’t do anything with the case. As far as I know the Gards would have to have informed you if they were proceeding with any action (I might be incorrect about that).

    As for the Gards and their actions around my case – I was very disappointed indeed. As I was unconscious initially and then in no fit state to give any description, they seemed to assume that I was in the wrong. I formed this opinion by their behavior when they interviewed me a few days later. It only seemed to dawn on them as they were interviewing me that the driver was perhaps at fault. At the scene they didn’t breathalyse the person, they never checked to see if her car was road-worthy (and suspiciously the person sold their car within 2 weeks of the collision) and they never checked her phone to see if she was using it at the time of the collision (that last thing isn’t required by law, but it should be).

    When the Gards were interviewing me a few days after the collision, I asked them why they didn’t breathalyse the person. The Gard in charge told me directly that they weren’t required to. I was very surprised at this, although when I looked it up after they left I discovered that they are required by law to breathalyse the driver. So they either didn’t have a clue about their job or they were lying. I then sent a letter to the Superintendent asking why the driver wasn’t breathalysed (amongst other things). The letter he sent back just ignored the issue of the person not being breathalysed. Disgusting.

    Also, when the Gards were interviewing me they repeatedly Tut Tut Tuted at me because I wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time. They repeatedly told me that I should have been wearing a helmet. Due to my injuries I was really in no fit state at the time to get into an argument with them over it. Would they approach a rape victim, I wonder, and tut tut at the victim and tell her that she shouldn’t have been wearing such a short dress? Maybe if she hadn’t been wearing such a short dress and not been in that dodgy part of town, then maybe she wouldn’t have been raped. Tut tut tut tut.

    Honestly, the whole experience was beyond disgusting.

    Imagine if a pedestrian was crossing the road at the point where I was hit (I often cross the road at exactly the same location walking – it’s about 800m from where I live). If a pedestrian had been hit by a car at that point and suffered head injuries, would anyone ask them why they weren’t wearing a helmet? Of course they bloody wouldn’t. Look up the stats of how many pedestrians are killed vs cyclists. 3-5 times more pedestrians are killed every year in Ireland compared to cyclists, and yet only cyclists are demonised for not wearing helmets.

    I’d like to further point out that I didn’t hit my head on the ground after being run over by the car. I was hit on the head BY the car. Imagine the scene whereby someone accidentally whacked me on the head with a sledgehammer as I was innocently cycling or walking down the road. In that circumstance, would anyone really try to tell me that if only I was wearing a helmet then I would have been saved from the idiot with the sledgehammer. No, of course not, because everyone would immediately realise that the onus is on the idiot with the sledgehammer to not go around carelessly whacking people on the head (and also not break their back, ribs, collarbones etc at the same time). However, tragically it seems that idiots can whack you on the head with a car; the momentum of which is far far far greater than a slegdehammer, and yet the Gards can then turn to the victim and tut tut tut that the victim was somehow to blame for not wearing a styrofoam hat.

    This is one f**ked up situation I’ve experienced over all this.

  20. On the issue of the missing two fatalities with no other vehicle involved: someone on boards.ie mentioned that a mountain biker in Kerry had died last year from a heart attack. Could this be one of the two? It clearly doesn’t belong in the annual tally of road deaths if that’s the case, so I’m assuming that it’s not one of the two, but thought I’d mention it.

  21. @ Dermot
    Saw that Boards post but I would be surprised if that is one of the missing fatalities. It’s hard to be sure as the RSA reports are very vague and I can’t find any detail on how they define fatalities, injuries or accidents.

    @ Cian
    Any further information on this from any of your sources?

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