Cycling road casualty numbers appear to have stabilised with collisions per million km cycled having dropped. But the police still recorded 250 incidents* of injury to cyclists in 2015 1 with 38 being detained in hospital 2. So what are the police doing about this?

Well the answer is, as far as enforcement action is concerned, not much.

Bristol Road Justice Group has been monitoring the police’s response to incidents. We looked at three areas of enforcement:

  • Incidents involving serious injury
  • Incidents on the Gloucester Road, one of Bristol’s busiest cycle routes
  • Car doorings 3

In the first two areas, we looked at a sample of cases in 2015 where the injured cyclists had been hit by a car or van manoeuvring, e.g. pulling out of side roads, crossing the carriageway or parking, or where the vehicle hit the cyclist while overtaking or from behind. In all cases the police report of the incident suggested the driver was at fault.

We therefore expected that in most cases police enforcement action would have followed. Instead we found:

  • In 18 cases we looked at resulting in serious injury to cyclists the police only prosecuted 4 drivers, while a further 3, despite the consequences of their dangerous driving, were simply allowed to attend educational courses 4.
  • In 11 cases of injury to cyclists on the Gloucester Road, the police only prosecuted 1 driver 5.
  • In 16 cases of injury to cyclists caused by the careless opening of car doors, the police only prosecuted in 1 case and that was unsuccessful. You could be forgiven for thinking that their lack of action has effectively decriminalised the offence 6.

The police have responded to our concerns, claiming that they bring enforcement action in all cases where the victim wishes them to and where there is the evidence to support such action.

However, it is worth looking at these prosecution rates in the broader context of overall enforcement rates. There has been a huge reduction in the number of fixed penalty notices issued for the use of mobile phones while driving, down from 1,601 in 2011 to 276 in 2015. Even the police’s recording of incidents seems to have declined. For example, the number of pedestrians the police recorded as being killed or seriously injured on Bristol’s roads has reduced significantly. But hospital admissions have in fact remained almost the same. In 2011 the police recorded 59% of such hospital admission; by 2015 this number had fallen to 43% of admissions.

These figures would seem to suggest that the continued low rate of prosecution of motorists causing cycling injuries is more to do with resources and priorities than with difficulties in securing evidence.

 

P.S. Please remember – whilst these injury numbers are serious, cycling is overall a safe activity, with cyclists being healthier overall than non-cyclists – despite the dangers imposed by motorists. The number of people injured by a motorist whilst cycling in Bristol is about the same as the number of people injured by a motorist when out walking around the city.

*Incidents in the central (Bristol City Council) district of the Bristol conurbation only.

Sources

1.   Interpreted Listing of Police Road Traffic Incident Reports 2015 – BCC Strategic Transport
2.  Bristol Emergency Admissions to hospital due to transport related accidents 2003 – 2015
3.  Under Section 42, Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence for a person to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person.”
4.  FOI response 16 September, 2016
5.  FOI response 07 October, 2016
6.  FOI response 27 September, 2016