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Death crashes caused by cyclists misrecorded

Bike lanes
Bike lanes - Jamie Lorriman

The true threat posed by cyclists who break the law is unknown because the Government is failing to record accurate collision data, The Telegraph can reveal.

Analysis of recent deaths of pensioners killed by cyclists has found they are not being logged as fatalities in official Department for Transport (DfT) and police statistics.

Since 1979, police have filed reports about people injured in traffic collisions involving at least one vehicle, including cars, lorries and bicycles, on roads and pavements.

The DfT publishes the data in its Stats 19 report which is used to assess how well policymakers and politicians have tackled dangers posed by transport issues, such as drink driving and speeding.

However, The Telegraph has uncovered glaring failings in how the data is collected because it excludes those killed and seriously injured in public spaces where bikes are often ridden at speed. Official statistics also ignore those who take more than 30 days to succumb to catastrophic injuries caused by being struck by a bike.

Polly Friedhoff, 82, was hit and killed by a cyclist as she was walking along a canal towpath in Oxfordshire in 2022.

But the Stats 19 data states there were “no deaths” in 2022 caused by a cyclist hitting a pedestrian. A DfT official has now confirmed that towpaths are “not in the scope” of Stats 19 data.

Jim Blackwood, 91, was hit by an e-bike being ridden on the pavement in Kent last year.

Because it took three months before he died from his severe injuries he will not be recorded as “killed”, only seriously injured.

Jim Blackwood, 91, was hit by an e-bike being ridden on the pavement in Kent last year
Jim Blackwood, 91, was hit by an e-bike being ridden on the pavement in Kent last year - Geoff Pugh

John Douglas, 75, suffered 15 broken ribs and two broken collarbones after being hit by an e-bike ridden on the pavement near his Birmingham home last year.

But because he died six weeks after the collision, official data will only record him having suffered a serious injury.

The official statistics shows 462 pedestrians were injured by cyclists in 2022, compared to 437 in 2021 when one person is recorded as dying, and 308 in 2020, when four people were killed.

John Douglas, 75, suffered 15 broken ribs and two broken collarbones after being hit by an e-bike ridden on the pavement near his Birmingham home last year
John Douglas, 75, suffered 15 broken ribs and two broken collarbones after being hit by an e-bike ridden on the pavement near his Birmingham home last year

A 2011 DfT document lists the public places which need not be included in the Stats 19 data.

The file shows a “footpath or bridleway with no lawful access for motor vehicles” is exempt from being included in official data. A “cycle path/track with no lawful access for motor vehicles” is also excluded.

Other excluded public areas include bus, railway and petrol stations, picnic areas, service areas, municipal or private parks, private industrial estates, pedestrian malls and private retail shopping parks, private residential estates, harbours, unadopted roads which are not maintained by public money and car parks and their access roads.

A recent DfT report warned how “under-reporting” of data could mean “the true magnitude of road safety problems are unknown or could be underestimated” and would “lead to less efficient or inappropriate countermeasures” or “incorrect prioritising”.

However, the pro-cycling lobby often quotes Stats 19 data to insist that there is no need to modernise laws so cyclists who kill face the same punishment as motorists.

Chris Boardman, the Active Traveller Commissioner, refused to back calls for updated laws
Chris Boardman, the Active Traveller Commissioner, refused to back calls for updated laws - Paul Cooper

Cyclists who kill can be jailed for up to two years for “wanton and furious” riding under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. In theory a cyclist would be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which can result in a life sentence, but this is highly unlikely while the lesser charge is available. However, motorists can be jailed for life for dangerous or reckless driving if they kill someone.

Last year, Chris Boardman, the Active Travel Commissioner, refused to back calls for updated laws because he said “there were more people killed by lightning and cows than by cyclists”.

Matt Briggs, whose wife Kim was killed by a cyclist in 2016, said it was “extraordinary” the DfT was not “accurately” collecting data meaning it cannot “make effective policy decisions while it is ignoring countless numbers of incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians”.

He added that he was “utterly shocked” by Mr Boardman’s “casual flippancy and disregard for the pain and suffering of grieving families who have lost loved ones” to cyclists who break the law.

Christine White, the daughter of Mr Blackwood, said it was “totally unacceptable” that ministers promote cycling while publishing “statistics which don’t tell the full story”.

“How does my father’s death not qualify as a cycling related fatality?” she said. “It helps this Government avoid updating laws which could prevent further deaths.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “Safety remains our top priority, and our casualty statistics are in line with rigorous international standards.

“We also continue to work closely with police to regularly review and strengthen data around cycling, e-cycle and e-scooter incidents.”