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Is my new commute more dangerous?

November 19, 2011

Looking at my old and new commutes on the excellent Guardian Data Blog’s Road Casualty map it would appear  the chances of me being killed are about the same. Both routes have had 1 fatality in the last 11 years. My old commute’s fatality was on the road out of Ottershaw in 2005 a year when I would have ridden that road approximately 8 times a week.

Ottershaw Fatality

A road that should be pretty safe but occasionally terrified me as motorists overtook when there was oncoming traffic. Including overtaking when I was the oncoming traffic. Always nice to have a car coming straight at you at 50+mph.

The new commute’s fatality is in my home town. Walton-on-Thames:

Walton on Thames cyclist fatality

A 26 year old killed in 2002. Less than a mile from my start or end point. It looks like it is in the one way system around the old Library. This is not a cycle friendly place. The road surface is terrible and motorists seem to treat it as a bit of a race track when there is not much traffic or will squeeze past when there is.

Serious injuries tell a similar story the old commute scores 16 and the new 20 (average 19 on the route to work 21 on the return) on new commute, per mile that makes the new commuter a bit “safer”

Overall there is little you can learn from this.Without knowing how many cyclists are on the road this tells you nothing, roads that appear safe could just be so scary no cyclists use them equally roads that appear dangerous could just have more cyclists.

The bits that scare me almost certainly have very small numbers of cyclists. For example he A30 roundabout under the M25 at Runnymede at rush hour is such a place. I have no choice but to ride it but if you had a choice you would not. I’ve not seen a single other cyclist on it during my commute.

The total numbers are of course shocking and if compared with the numbers killed by terrorism in whose name we have been forced to give so much up even more so. I can’t get an exact figure for the numbers killed in terrorist incidents for the 11 years but what I have got suggest is is less than 100 and nearly all of those were in 7/7.

With 32,955 killed on the roads and less than 100 by terrorists. I think the government are fighting the wrong war.


From → Cycling

  1. Mark permalink

    To compare the number of deaths is naive. As a government you of course have to consider the economic value of a life lost, is a pedestrian equal to a cyclist or a motorist? Clearly the motorist has invested in a car and therefore must be more valued than a cyclist or pedestrian who has spent virtually nothing.

    So to complete your analysis you should weight your deaths by value.

    To further validate your analysis you should also consider potential lost economic value; demographic, earnings, occupation and educational achievement and of course parents economic status would all be good indicators of future economic impact.

    Clearly of even more importance to any government is the confidence of the markets. Markets are unphased by road deaths but find the economic uncertainty of deaths due to terrorists terrifying. Clearly all deaths are not equal.

  2. Sam permalink


    The number of people killed on the roads is indeed shocking – but playing devil’s advocate for a moment, there might have been more than 100 people killed in the UK over that period by terrorists, if the Govt. had _not_ spent money on that (especially given the reports from MI5 etc., though vague, of planned terrorismm which they claim to have thwarted).

    BTW, I agree about the A30 Runnymede Roundabout in the rush hour. I know it well & cyclists are certainly a rarity on the roundabout itself. It doesn’t help that the A30 has 4 lanes entering the roundabout in both directions (2 lanes exiting), and the roundabout itself is 2.5 lanes wide. This leads to inevitable jostling for position on entry to the roundabout, as the 4 lanes converge – I feel sorry for any cyclist who meets the wrong driver at that point.

    There were a few minutes news on London Tonight earlier today, about recent accidents involving cyclists on Box Hill. I wouldn’t have said what the local cycling club rep said about car drivers “winning” any confrontation – to some aggressive drivers, that might have sounded like encouragement!

    I would vote for repeated driving exams (e.g. every 3 years?) in order to ensure drivers don’t get complacent after passing their first test. More drivers reading the Highway Code in preparation for an exam, including the parts about giving cyclists a wide berth, can’t be a bad thing, can it?

    • chrisgerhard permalink


      The authorities would have had to thwarted an awful lot of terrorist attacks to even come close and seeing as in many cases that they have publicised when they came to trial there was not plot at all. Even if we had a 7/7 every week we would still be killing more people on the roads than by terrorists.

      There does not seem to be any encouragement needed for some motorists to attack, both physically and verbally cyclists. I understood the point the man from Redhill CC was making. Motorists will drive a cyclists “to teach them a lesson” some of those motorists just won’t have thought through the consequences of an impact. Some take the view, “you have a helmet so you will be safe”, which is so far from the truth but apparently a commonly held belief.
      Equally for cyclists, don’t get into an argument with someone in a car as if they choose to use it as a weapon there can be only one loser.

      • Sam permalink


        “in many cases that they have publicised when they came to trial there was not plot at all”

        True – my (subjective) view from reading the media is also that plots which get disrupted early enough, may not go to trial (not enough evidence to ensure conviction), yet the result was still prevented. My point is that, given the lack of transparency, I doubt we’ll ever know 😦

        Being (perhaps more) realistic, it seems to be hard work to reduce road deaths (multiple causes, education of many people needed, changes in attitude required etc.) – why would a politician choose this target, as they may not be able to show significant results before they come up for re-election? 😦

        “I understood the point the man from Redhill CC was making.”

        So did I – but the words spoken were ambiguous, which wasn’t helpful IMHO.

        “Motorists will drive a[t] cyclists “to teach them a lesson” some of those motorists just won’t have thought through the consequences of an impact.”

        Exactly, and _that_ is the point which should have been stressed IMHO – not saying that there will only be one “winner”. I would not have used that word in that context.

        I would have said something like: “In a crash with a cyclist, there will only be one person in the dock, losing his licence and going to prison”. The aim being to _shock_ any car driver, for whom a crash with a cyclist (or motorcyclist) wasn’t already something that they feared (as I do) – it doesn’t matter (for the purposes of trying to shock) whether the courts are actually taking that hard line (which some of your posts suggests they aren’t).

        BTW, I saw a great front cycle light the other evening (“great” as in being easy to spot and quickly identify as a bike, for me as a car driver): A continuous white light (not sure if it was bulb or LED – it was possibly high wattage LED) _and_ a flashing high brightness white light (obviously LED – approx 5Hz). I found it noticably easier to consciously realise what it was, when just seen briefly, than only a slower flashing dimmer LED (with no continuous light)

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