Are cycling deaths “on the rise” in Ireland?

We are working in the background on getting better data on cycling deaths and injuries, so one thing that gets our attention is people writing about the subject. Often there’s something major off with what’s written.

In an article titled “Death and injury toll among cyclists on the rise”, Carl O’Brien writes in The Irish Times today: “While the number dying on the road has been on the rise in recent years, it has varied significantly from year to year.”

When referring to cycling and claiming “number dying on the road has been on the rise in recent years”, is just wrong unless a new trend develops. While cycling road deaths more than double in 2014, the long and short term trend is a decline in cycling deaths. The three years before 2014 were all years of declining numbers of deaths. Since 2000, there were increases in cycling deaths in only 5 of 14 years.

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Here’s our graphs from 2014 (which have yet to be updated to include that year)…

    

We were asked on Twitter: 
The Irish Times reported that: “While cyclists make up about 2 per cent of traffic on Irish roads, they account for up to 8 per cent of injuries, latest official figures show.”

There is however complex issues behind this. The 2% of traffic is from national transport travel surveys which does not account for the large amount of leisure and sporting cycling on our roads — the stats on deaths on the other hand does not distinguish between transport, leisure or sporting cycling. The stats can’t be directly compared.

That’s not even the complex part: The deaths include incidents most people would never get involved with, such as cycling on a motorway.

Looking at just a few factors — as the RSA often do — can come to the wrong conclusions. There’s little or no point looking at junction type without looking at road and area type. There’s a big difference between quite rural roads and busy national rural roads, that’s before you look at rural vs urban, town/city centre vs suburb, and region vs region.

There’s for example a notable  difference between Dublin and the rest of the country — Dublin has the most people who cycle but there’s thankfully low numbers of deaths. The national level of cycling deaths is spread around different counties.

We need to understand the causes,  trends, and contexts; so more care needs to be taken when writing about cycling deaths. 

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9 comments

  1. The money stat was 2% of traffic, “up to” 8% of “injuries”. So not “8% of fatalities”.

    “Up to” is slippery anyway. In 2013, cyclists were 2.6% of road deaths, I think (5 out of 190). Maybe cyclists made up about 8% (as in, more than 7%) of hospital-recorded road-related injuries in 2014, or something like that.

    Anyway, looks like cherry-picking for bad news again.

    Reply
  2. If the “injuries” are “hospital-recorded road-related injuries”, might be worth considering whether, as in many countries, commuting pedestrians are not included as road/transport-related injuries unless hit by a car. Cyclists *are* included, even for simple falls.

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  3. “the stats on deaths on the other hand does not distinguish between transport, leisure or sporting cycling.”

    According to the below RSA study, “Over 4 in 10 cyclists who were injured in 2012 were cycling for leisure purposes at the time of the collision, while almost 1 in 10 were cycling to/from work.”

    Even the sketchy RSA data, which include little context, point to the fact that commuting cycling is the least risky. The big jump in injuries that was referred to in other media outlets is surely down to a change in data collection. Again, there is no context given by the RSA.

    http://www.rsa.ie/Documents/Road%20Safety/Crash%20Stats/Review_of_Cyclist_Injuries_2012.pdf

    Reply
  4. The Irish Times says:
    “Prior to 2012, injuries involving cyclists represented about 2 per cent to 5 per cent of all road users injured annually.

    “However, in 2012 the number of cyclists injured jumped to 8 per cent, up from 395 to 630.”

    If this is down to a change in data collection methodology and they’ve rung alarm bells over it, it is extraordinary: deeply cynical or completely incompetent.

    Reply
  5. I just realised that most of the injuries being referred to are “not serious” (e.g. in 2012, the spike, 30 cyclist seriously injured, up from 16 the previous year, but quite similar to a few previous years — see Figure 2c). So we’re flapping our hands over predominantly minor injuries (30:630).

    Reply

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