Cyclists don’t feel safe on UK roads

Posted on: 7 mins read
Melanie Burden

Partner, Head of Employer's Liability - Serious Injury

Share Article:

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of people taking up cycling, with approximately 6.5 million people participating in England for sport, leisure or travel in 2021. A great alternative to public transport or driving that also keeps you fit and healthy, it’s easy to see why cycling is on the rise. But how safe do cyclists feel?

Our personal injury team at Simpson Millar conducted a survey of 2000 participants. The research revealed that while cycling remains a popular pastime across the country, the majority of people (57.6%) do not feel that UK roads are safe for cyclists.

Of those participants who do still cycle, over 37% said that they felt unsafe or very unsafe cycling around city centres in the UK.

TrustpilotStarsWe're ratedExcellent

The survey also revealed that around a third (28.9%) of avid cyclists felt vulnerable on rural roads, a concern backed up by government data which shows that between 2015 and 2020, 56% of pedal cycle fatalities occurred on rural roads compared to 29% of traffic.

The most and least safe cities for cyclists in UK

According to our research, Norwich, Nottingham and Cardiff are the cities where cyclists feel the least safe, while in Belfast, Bristol and London cyclists feel safest.

In general, do you feel that UK roads are safe for cyclists?

 

Yes

No

Norwich

29.9%

70.1%

Nottingham

30.4%

69.6%

Cardiff

30.7%

69.3%

Southampton

33.0%

67.0%

Newcastle

33.3%

66.7%

Liverpool

34.6%

65.4%

Leeds

35.0%

65.0%

Sheffield

40.0%

60.0%

Birmingham

40.5%

59.5%

Manchester

40.5%

59.5%

Edinburgh

44.1%

55.9%

London

50.3%

49.7%

Glasgow

55.6%

44.4%

Bristol

59.7%

40.3%

Belfast

64.3%

35.7%

Pedal bike users feel most vulnerable on city centre roads where there is no dedicated cycle way, and on roundabouts.

Are there any particular road types or junctions where you feel particularly vulnerable as a cyclist?

Rural roads

289

28.9%

City centre road without a cycle way

551

55.0%

City centre road with a cycle way

233

23.3%

Slip roads

237

23.7%

Roundabouts

451

45.1%

Traffic lights (going straight)

169

16.9%

Traffic lights (turning left / right with a filter arrow)

188

18.8%

Traffic lights (turning left / right without a filter arrow)

225

22.5%

Other - please comment

11

1.1%

Total

1,001

 

Our clients rate us asExcellentStars4.5 out of 5 based off 2455 reviewsTrustpilot

While the Department for Transport (DfT) data shows that pedal cycle traffic grew by 62% between 2004 and 2021, our findings reveal over 6% of cyclists have quit over safety concerns.

Do you cycle at least once a week?

Yes

677

33.9%

No - I used to, but don't any more due to safety concerns

131

6.6%

No - I used to, but don't any more for other reasons

177

8.9%

No - I do cycle, but not that regularly

210

10.5%

No, I don't cycle

805

40.3%

Total

2,000

 

Cycling safety by age and gender

On average, our research revealed that women felt UK roads were less safe for cyclists in comparison to men

In general, do you feel that UK roads are safe for cyclists?

 

Female

Male

Yes

40.4%

45.2%

No

59.6%

54.8%

Total

1,157

840

However, men were more likely than women to stop cycling due to safety concerns.

Do you cycle at least once a week?

 

Female

Male

Yes

32.6%

35.7%

No - I used to, but don't any more due to safety concerns

5.3%

8.3%

No - I used to, but don't any more for other reasons

7.6%

10.5%

No - I do cycle, but not that regularly

10.2%

11.0%

No, I don't cycle

44.3%

34.5%

Total

1,157

840

In terms of age demographics, people over 65 feel the most unsafe cycling UK roads, while cyclists between 25 and 34 feel safest.

Do you feel safe when cycling around city centres in the UK?

 

 

18 - 24

25 - 34

35 - 44

45 - 54

55 - 64

65+

Yes - very safe

10.0%

32.2%

19.0%

7.5%

1.6%

5.6%

Yes - quite safe

36.7%

46.1%

40.5%

29.3%

24.4%

18.3%

No - I feel unsafe

35.0%

14.3%

21.5%

32.8%

36.2%

40.8%

No - I feel very unsafe

11.7%

4.7%

10.6%

19.5%

17.3%

12.7%

N/A - I don't cycle in cities

6.7%

2.7%

8.4%

10.9%

20.5%

22.5%

Total

60

258

311

174

127

71

The percentage of cyclists involved in road accidents

The Department for Transport (DfT) reports that in 2021, 111 pedal cyclists were killed and 4,353 were reported to be seriously injured in Great Britain. The latest figures released in November 2022 shows that that there were 99 fatalities in the year ending June 2022.

This supports our data, which reports that 13% of participants have been hit at least once while cycling, and 17% twice.

Have you ever been involved in a road traffic accident while cycling?

Yes - once

135

13.5%

Yes - twice

170

17.0%

Yes - three times

87

8.7%

Yes - four times

30

3.0%

Yes - five times

12

1.2%

Yes - more than five times

5

0.5%

No

562

56.1%

Total

1,001

 

According to the DfT, the weekday peak time for pedal cyclist KSIs (people killed or seriously injured) is from 7am to 10am and from 4pm to 7pm. By contrast, the pattern differs for Saturday and Sunday for both trips and KSIs. During the weekend there is a single peak around mid-morning (10 am to 12 noon) which gradually tails off during the afternoon and evening.

Commenting on the survey findings, our head of personal injury law Melanie Burden, said: “Cycling is incredibly popular in the UK. It’s great for exercise, a fantastic transport mode, and we have some of the most incredible countryside for people to explore. We want to encourage more people to get on their bikes and enjoy cycling.
“However, there is clearly work to be done by the Government and local authorities to do more to encourage more people to get on their bikes and to make the roads safer for all road users.

“This report shows that there is a real need for a better infrastructure to be put in place for cycling, as it is across mainland Europe, to head off the climate crisis, enable people to save money and reduce traffic by leaving their cars at home and creating a healthier population that costs the NHS less money and benefits us all.”

Melanie Burden Comments on the research

  • "This report shows that there is a real need for a better infrastructure to be put in place for cycling, as it is across mainland Europe, to head off the climate crisis, enable people to save money and reduce traffic by leaving their cars at home and creating a healthier population that costs the NHS less money and benefits us all"

    Melanie Burden

    Head of Personal Injury at Simpson Millar

Survey participants were asked what additional measures should be brought in to increase road safety for cyclists in the UK, with the majority of participants voting for more cycle lanes on busy routes, compulsory wearing of helmets, wider cycle lanes, compulsory use of bicycle taillights and indicators, and more cycle-friendly junctions / roundabouts.

Are there any measures that you think should be brought in, to help make cycling feel safer? Please select all that apply.

Compulsory wearing of helmets

496

49.6%

More cycle lanes on busy routes

497

49.7%

Wider cycle lanes

378

37.8%

More cycle-friendly junctions / roundabouts

323

32.3%

Compulsory use of bicycle tail lights and indicators

331

33.1%

Compulsory training courses for cyclists

209

20.9%

Section on driving around near cyclists as part of the practical driving test

198

19.8%

Slower speed limits on roads with high accident rates

230

23.0%

Speed limits for cyclists

148

14.8%

More speed cameras

112

11.2%

Harsher punishments for road users that cause an accident involving a cyclist

198

19.8%

More promotion / communication of the recent Highway Code changes that give cyclists priority over drivers

151

15.1%

Other - please comment

17

1.7%

Total

1,001

 

A number of other suggestions were made by individual participants on how to improve cycling safety. These included making insurance compulsory for cyclists, having cyclists take a Highway Code Test, and enforcing a license for cyclists, as well as regular maintenance checks for their equipment, like an MOT.

Our conclusion to our research

Cycling is great for the environment and for physical fitness, and it’s positive to see that so many people are taking it up as an alternative form of transport. However, our research suggests there is still a lot to be done to ensure city roads are equipped to support the increasing number of cyclists in the UK.

While most participants who do cycle continue to do so at least once a week, the majority feel unsafe on UK roads, and particularly in city centres. This may be related to the substantial number (44%) of cyclists who have been involved in road traffic accidents at least once.

These risks are prevalent enough to deter some people from cycling. However, it’s likely that as the number of UK cyclists does continue to rise, so will the number of accidents, as long as roads remain unsafe.

If you find yourself involved in an accident, you can seek legal advice on your road traffic accident claim. You can also put in a claim for compensation, even if you are a cyclist or pedestrian that has been injured by another road user. This compensation can allow you to get the care, support and treatment you may need after an accident, and help you get your life back on track.

Our team of specialist Personal Injury Solicitors can help support you in your case, and help you achieve the best outcome after an accident.

Learn how the claims process works for cyclists.

Our Study Sources

Click to discover more government data on UK cycling safety.

If you have experienced a cycling injury you can speak to our team today

Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 6443

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose