Contextualising Safety in Numbers: a longitudinal investigation into change in cycling safety in Britain, 1991-2001 and 2001-2011.

27 Jun 2018

INTRODUCTION: The 'Safety in Numbers' (SiN) phenomenon refers to a decline of injury risk per time or distance exposed as use of a mode increases. It has been demonstrated for cycling using cross-sectional data, but little evidence exists as to whether the effect applies longitudinally -that is, whether changes in cycling levels correlate with changes in per-cyclist injury risks. METHODS: This paper examines cross-sectional and longitudinal SiN effects in 202 local authorities in Britain, using commuting data from 1991, 2001 and 2011 censuses plus police -recorded data on 'killed and seriously injured' (KSI) road traffic injuries. We modelled a log-linear relationship between number of injuries and number of cycle commuters. Second, we conducted longitudinal analysis to examine whether local authorities where commuter cycling increased became safer (and vice versa). RESULTS: The paper finds a cross-sectional SiN effect exists in the 1991, 2001 and 2011 censuses. The longitudinal analysis also found a SiN effect, that is, places where cycling increased were more likely to become safer than places where it had declined. Finally, these longitudinal results are placed in the context of changes in pedestrian, cyclist and motorist safety. While between 1991 and 2001 all modes saw declines in KSI risk (37% for pedestrians, 36% for cyclists and 27% for motor vehicle users), between 2001 and 2011 pedestrians and motorists saw even more substantial declines (41% and 49%), while risk for cyclists increased by 4%. CONCLUSION: The SiN mechanism does seem to operate longitudinally as well as cross-sectionally. However, at a national level between 2001-11 it co-existed with an increase in cyclist injury risk both in absolute terms and in relation to other modes.