Pedestrians, pavement cyclists and the ways people die in accidents

I see there are lots of commentators on social media complaining that people riding bicycles on the pavement are a risk to pedestrians, with claims that dozens of pedestrians are being killed and injured each year.  Equally, cycling advocates are claiming the risks are trivial.  So, I thought I’d find some data to support or refute these claims.

The Office for National Statistics publishes each year a rich data set listing in detail the many ways in which people died in the previous 12 months.  (The newer data is available from the new NOMIS, the labour market statistics database).  The majority of deaths are due to natural causes or illness.  But, sadly, many people do die in accidental and preventable deaths, and their reasons are given too.  The ONS uses International Classification of Diseases codes published by the World Health Organisation.  The many causes of accidental deaths make grim reading, although I’m sure Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie would have been giddy with excitement.  The ICD codes are used by many countries, so international comparisons are possible too.

In comparing the numbers of people who die in different types of accidents, I don’t mean to trivialise anyone’s death.  Like many others, my family has lost loved ones in random and avoidable accidents, and we mourn their loss every day.  I’m trying instead to get a sense of perspective.

Looking at the data for England & Wales for 2007-2014 (the published spreadsheets), on average, 2.75 pedestrians died each year following a collision with a pedal cyclist.  Not all of these would have been on the pavement: some were on the road carriageway.   That is the same number of people who died each year from bee & wasp stings.  Twice as many people drowned in swimming pools, four times as many died falling off cliffs, and seven times as many died in air accidents.  The graphic below shares some other comparisons.

For those of you reading this post this evening, and thinking of going up the stairs, having a bath, and then climbing into bed: please, be careful!


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