Cycling in London – How dangerous is it?

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This topic contains 31 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  mit 5 years, 8 months ago.

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    I wanted to get a deeper understanding of cycling safety in London. This is why I’ve started to collect data on severe and fatal cycling accidents in London since 2006 and read quite a few statistics and papers on that topic. I’ve created a spreadsheet on Google Docs and a map showing information about 58 fatal cycling accidents that happened in Greater London since 2006.

    I’ve summarised my thoughts about this sad topic on my cycling blog.

    Comments much appreciated!

    Take care




    Interesting post.

    I know some people have a very adverse reaction to the blog but Freewheeler’s Crap Cycling blog has had some very interesting posts analysing both the safety numbers and absolute cycling numbers. Well worth reading even if you take issue with the very-much-anti vehicular cycling argument.



    I don’t know. Maybe a separate thread should be started on how dangerous cycling in London feels subjectively. I’d like a place where I can have a rant about poor design.

    All I know is Victoria Embankment is a <insert inappropriate word here> nightmare, mainly to do with traffic speeds.

    Sorry I can’t help you with actual figures.



    Replying to @radii8‘s post:

    I’m with you, radii8! Cycling in London often feels very dangerous to me, too. Today I was riding along Gray’s Inn road and a Royal Mail van traveling at too high a speed, almost clipped me. My heart was in my throat. :(



    I don’t think it’s that dangerous. It depends on the person really. I don’t even like associating cycling with the word danger as that’ll just put people off.



    Mit – I understand you personally don’t like cycling to be associated with the word ‘danger’. But the thing is lot of non-regular cyclists – no matter how many times you tell them that statistically cycling is not dangerous – feel subjectively that it is.

    I have a theory (one of many…) Until you get women cycling on the streets, at a pace most women feel comforable to cycle, you won’t get the kids on the road. Many mothers will tell their kids “you can cycle but not on the roads – it’s too dangerous” Until people see kids on the road cycling cycling won’t be seen as “safe”.

    By contrast you don’t generally get parents telling kids “you can’t walk on the pavement, it’s dangerous”. You see kids walking on the pavement all the time. Walking on the pavement isn’t seen as a dangerous activity (even if the stats say otherwise)

    How something is perceived directly impacts how prepared people are to engage in it.



    I feel you are right. I was at dinner last night, with three female friends. All felt cycling in London was too dangerous, despite all being competent drivers. We need real changes in infrastructure to change perceptions or cycling will remain a minority pursuit. And if you’re to ask me why cycling should become a majority activity, I’d say because if most people cycled, London would be greener, cleaner, quieter, healthier and safer.



    Greener, cleaner, quieter, healthier, safer. I would love to see this, too! I started a thread a few weeks back to do with poor air quality in London (the worst in Europe) and it’s major cause: traffic. This is clearly one of my pet peeves. More bicycles and less cars on the roads would make such a positive change overall. If people got out of their cars, they would realize how vulnerable you feel without a heavy metal cage around you, and perhaps they would drive more considerately.



    Cycling is relatively safe in London, just stay away from Oxford Street and you should be fine.

    I think much of Londons change could better come about if drivers were held to account for their driving especially lorry drivers, buses, and those infernal private taxis. At present, there is little fear surrounding the consequences of driving in a selfish and boorish manner, which is why they continue to drive in inconsiderate and intimidating ways.

    An single independent ‘how’s my driving’ number should be places on all HGV’s, buses, and Taxis, and bad driving will result in the loss of license points. Furthermore, there should be a 6 point maximum for these trades.

    Apart from that, HGV’s really have no place in the city, especially during peak times.


    and those infernal private taxis

    Hear hear!

    That said, I was driving behind a bus yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see an advert for – promoting the idea of treating other road users as you would your friends :)


    Dan Thomas

    It’s a shame that when I mention Boris Biking to people they pull a face and look scared. London is not that dangerous a place to bike – busy, yes, but the traffic is largely slow or static. So pretty easy to move around it and predict what it’s going to do. And it’s riding a bike in a city centre, not frontline combat in Fallujah…


    “I don’t even like associating cycling with the word danger as that’ll just put people off.”

    @ mit: I share your feelings. On the other hand, as others have said here, subjective safety concerns turn a lot of cyclists off. Additionally, there are a lot of things which TfL, Boris and the councils could do to make cycling subjectivly and objectively safer, such as:

    - fixing potholes

    - banning HGVs, at least in the peak hours

    - completely close some roads for car traffic

    just stay away from Oxford Street and you should be fine.

    @ Chap: Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that, and IMHO your advice is partly misleading. Stay away from lorries is the most important advice, and stay away from major junctions / roundabouts like Old Street and Elephant & Castle as well as busy roads. That’s where most severe accidents happen, as you can see here

    Today I was riding along Gray’s Inn road and a Royal Mail van traveling at too high a speed, almost clipped me. My heart was in my throat.

    @ claudia: oh dear.

    I always avoid Gray’s Inn Road, using Judd Street / Hunter Street / Lambs Conduit / Red Lion Street. No busses, and much less traffic in general .

    On northbound trips I leave Judd Street onto Cromer Steet / Whidborne Street / Argyle Street. That’s even quieter. (I’m going to blog about my most preferred back roads in Central London soon.)

    Safe journeys




    If we know for a fact (supported by statistics) that cycling is no more dangerous than walking on the pavement then why do majority of cyclists in London dress as if they’re about to climb mountain Everest? We’d no doubt be ridiculed if we put on a helmet and hi-viz vest just to walk around the streets.

    Until we can see cycling as normal as walking – something we could just do naturally without having to put on a protective armour and take special courses, cycling will remained as a “dangerous” activity in public perception. Boris Bikes could potentially change that perception around since it encourages ‘spontaneous cycling’. But I’ve started to notice alarming numbers of BBikers adopting the construction workers fashion. They look quite absurd, but I guess it makes them feel safer.

    To do my bit for normalising cycling, I cycled down to Holborn from St Paul’s on BB at lunchtime with my hair down, in short skirt and a pair of red heels. The closest thing to protective gear I had was my SPF30 face cream. I felt quite protected.



    Replying to @Girlspeedo‘s post:

    The closest thing to protective gear I had was my SPF30 face cream. I felt quite protected.

    Now that’s optimism! It isn’t factor 30 season yet, is it?



    Replying to @claudia‘s post:

    This isn’t strictly true. London has very bad air pollution (but remember, cycling doesn’t expose you to as much as if you are sitting in a car!) but it’s certainly not the worst in Europe. PM10 figures regularly exceed the EU maximum, but they also do so in many, many European areas.

    London is 3rd best out of this selection according to one measure:

    And, similarly, London is MUCH safer (objectively) than other European cities to cycle in.

    Safety in numbers is true both in terms of objective and subjective safety: I feel much safer when I’m sitting beside someone else in an ASL, or riding behind someone alongside the road.

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