Cycling deaths on Ireland’s roads in 2017: A decade record of fatalities, all involving motorists

15 is the provisional number of people killed while cycling on roads in the Republic of Ireland in 2017 — it’s the highest number of cycling deaths in one year since 2007, and above the 20 average.

The number is provisional because others deaths which were the result of injuries sustained while cycling may not yet be recorded as cycling road traffic collision deaths.

Significantly, all of the 15 collisions in 2017 included the involvement of motorists — that compares to the 2016 and 2015 when the number of collisions were at least 50% lower and three collisions in each of those years did not involve motorists (mainly single-vehicle collision and one case of a pedestrian walking across a cycle path).

In line with the trend in recent years, most of the deaths last year were in high-speed zones — in area of 80km/h and above. It means a large majority of collisions (nearly 67%) are in speed zones over 60km/h — the speed at which national and international guidance recommends segregation between bicycles and cars.

Even when the limits are broken-down, the largest percentage of collisions (33.4%) were on roads with a speed limit over 100km/h, including a collision on a non-motorway bypass with a 120km/h speed limit.

The Dublin City Council area, which is host to by far the highest number of commuters using bicycles, suffered one (1) fatal cycling collision — retaining its low number of cycling deaths which has averaged just over one death per year in the last decade.

However, the South Dublin County Council area within the M50, some of which also has a relatively high percentage of cycling commuting, suffered three cycling deaths this year — including one in Terenure and two in Rathfarnham.

Co Kerry and Co Cork were the joint counties with the second highest number of deaths, with three deaths in each county.

Counties Meath, Mayo, Clare, Kildare and Waterford all had a single cycling fatality each.

The names of the victims and the details of the collisions are as follows:

Road Safety Authority (RSA) analysis of the overall road deaths in 2017 highlights that: “Seven of the [15] fatalities occurred on a Sunday, three on a Tuesday, two
each on Wednesday and Friday and one cyclist fatality occurred on a Monday.”

The high Sunday figure, along with notable number of collisions in rural areas and on high-speed roads is one of the indications that most of the deaths are from leisure or sportive cycling, mostly not from commuting cycling.

The RSA also found that “Thirteen [of the 15] collisions occurred during daylight conditions and two collisions occurred during hours of darkness.” This follows previous RSA data showing visibility conditions to be limited factors in cycling collisions resulting in death.

On ages, the RSA said: “All cyclists killed were aged 25 or older. Five were 25-39 years of age, seven were between 45 and 64 years of age and three were aged 65 year and older.”

Using the data available to IrishCycle.com, including some estimation, the average age of the people killed on roads while cycling in 2017 was 48-years-old.

ANALYSIS: Where 2017 stands

Each one of these numbers is a death of a person and — as with a growing number of countries — the target should be zero road deaths.

The number of deaths increased in percentage terms by 50% between 2016 and 2017. It should be noted that the yearly number of cycling deaths in the last decade was mostly in single digits and the fluctuation of the year-by-year level of deaths can be large (ie 5 deaths one year and 12 the next) — this means small changes can show up as large percentages. For example, this means there was a decrease of nearly 40% in one year followed directly by an increase of 140% the next year.

Some caution should be taken in using the percentage change as a target. For example, between 2003 and 2004 there was a 0% change but the death rate still remained at 11.

A better measure is short- and mid-term trends and averages.

15 deaths in 2017  far below the high number of cycling deaths in the 1990s, but it is above the last 10-year average (9) and the 20-year average (11).

The trend is down from the highs of the 1990s (above and first 20-year image below), but a polynomial trendline (second image) shows that the trend in recent years is an increase in deaths. A large caveat is that the increase is more pronounced because of 2010 and 2013 had the joint lowest death rate on record of just 5 people cycling killed in the whole country in both of those years.

This article is part of long-term research and data collection by IrishCycle.com on cycling deaths on Ireland’s roads. This data and historically data is being added to a database to look at tracking the prevalent factors — because of its draft status, on-going or potential road traffic court cases, and sensitivity to the families of the victims, we cannot make this data more widely available at this time — however, we welcome suggestions, and links to or copies of older reports we may have missed or which are not available online.

Previous years:

9 Comments

  1. Thanks, Cian. Very clear, very balanced.

  2. Great work as always. Just a small technical correction however: _the largest percentage of collisions (33.4%)_ 33.4% here is a rounding up, and should be seen as 1/3: equal to the 50km/h and 80km/h sectors. More accurately this should say something like _an equal percentage of collisions (1/3)_

  3. I think the ‘economic activity’ variable has to be a factor in the numbers killed. During the boom (1995-2006) construction traffic was intense on our roads with a lot of HGV drivers who were not necessarily properly qualified/licensed and under JIT/pay-by-load delivery pressures.
    If you go to the national vehicle database you can see the rise in goods vehicle numbers over those years.
    Post-Crash the construction activity was minuscule. It’s now ramping up again and with on-line e-commerce the next road safety issue for cyclists is the proliferation of ‘white vans’ for courier deliveries.

  4. I agree, Mike. That was my line of thinking to explain the rise that seems to occur after a pronounced lull from 2007 to about 2012, when deaths were consistently low, even as cycling numbers rose sharply.

  5. If you go to http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/statire/SelectVarVal/saveselections.asp the numbers of new and 2nd-hand vehicles registered for first time in any year can be viewed.

    Category: Goods Vehicles >8,129 kg

    2006: 5,558 total first time registrations (new & 2nd-hand)
    2016: 3,820 ” ”

    Of course a new risk factor for cycling collisions is the large increase in the number of SUV/MPV/4X4 body-types in the private car fleet. In 2017 approx. 34% of new vehicle registrations were of SUV/MPV body-type. They have a large on-road footprint.The critical dimension for cyclists is the over wing-mirror width dimension that is typically 2,300 mm for a SUV (saloon car approx. 1,800 mm).
    But most serious of all is their poor EuroNCAP ratings towards VRUs.
    Why is the Department of Transport taking such a laissez-faire approach to the large increase in SUV body-types in private car fleet when they pose a threat to cyclists?

  6. Any death is an issue. However, as this is an analysis of the situation, looking at rural cycling deaths, does the increase in the number of motorised vehicles on the road coupled with an increase in leisure/ sportive type cycling not need to be somehow factored into the comparison statistics.

  7. The numbers are too small to do any really useful analysis. You can perhaps use these as a counterargument against some widely held beliefs. “Cycling in the city is too dangerous”, not according to the statistics. “Cyclists never use lights and that’s insanely dangerous”, if that were true we’d see a lot more deaths at night.

    To be clear, cyclists should use lights at night. The fact is that most of them do and you should feel free to ignore anyone who starts their rant with “cyclists never use lights”. The roads in cities are pretty well lit and even cyclists who don’t use lights or wear high-viz are visible. Anyone who often finds themselves complaining about “invisible” cyclists or people who “came out of nowhere” really should realise that it is their own attention which is at fault.

    The Netherlands has around 3.5 times our population and the article linked below claims their cyclist deaths hover around 200. Even based on the figure of 15 deaths (which I’m sure we all hope is an outlier) the Dutch per capita figure for cyclist deaths is more than triple ours. Taken in isolation that could seem terrible (and probably some motor lobby group who has already produced a paper claiming that good cycling infrastructure leads to more cyclist deaths) but if you account for the FAR higher amount of cycling in the Netherlands. From the same article it seems that 25% of all journeys are by bike and in Ireland (where we only have commuting stats I think) it is more like 3%.
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2008/10/16/bicycle-death-statistics-in-amsterdam-and-the-netherlands/

    I do agree with others who have said that increased road traffic due to the economic recovery is a factor although I don’t think that’s limited to commercial vehicles. I see noticeably more single occupancy cars on the roads too. So we have more cars and more cyclists (and not just leisure cyclists obviously, the canal cycle lanes are crowded these days). Of course this doesn’t mean the powers that be should just ignore these stats.

    The level of support for cyclists on high speed roads should be criminal. I find the N11 between Dublin and Naas to be too damn scary to cycle on due to the high speed slip roads designed to ensure cars can exit and enter the road already going 120kph or close to it. The N71 between Bandon and Clonakilty is barely wide enough for two cars in large sections (certainly not wide enough for a car to safely overtake a cyclist when their is oncoming traffic) and this is a 100kph road (and I’m certain a lot of motorists do 120kph).

    The obvious solution is to improve cycling infrastructure. Every single 100kph+ non-motorway road should have cycling taken in to account. Frustratingly I’m certain that the average person will think the obvious solution is to ban cyclists from those roads.

  8. So 2017 and 15 deaths, according to EU averages from;

    https://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/statistics_en

    15 deaths should equate to 60 with permanently disabling injuries such as damage to the brain or spinal cord, 120 serious injuries and 750 minor injuries.

    How many peoples lives are destroyed? That’s the human cost!

    The RSA analysis is atrocious, government quango costing millions for bugger all.

    I love to know the budget to produce that very bad data.

    Ah sure it’ll be grand!

  9. Please note that the RSA has to rely on data produced by An Garda. And we know how some of that data is suspect: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/garda-seems-better-at-promising-to-reform-than-actual-reform-1.3419898
    We still don’t have true data for number of serious injuries suffered by cyclists from impact by motor vehicles.

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