Cycling is an excellent form of exercise, a practical and eco-friendly way to travel as well as great fun. In the UK we have a number of schemes to encourage Brits to cycle, such as the ‘cycle to work scheme’ as well as cycle lanes to improve safety, but is it enough to make cyclists feel empowered on the roads?
Within this article, we will be investigating data surrounding UK cycling statistics to uncover how safe cyclists feel on the roads, and why (if at all) they feel unsafe. The following article includes data from external sources, as well as survey data sourced by Cycle SOS.
How many cyclists in the UK feel safe on the roads?
According to a survey of 2,005 UK cyclists, commissioned by Cycle SOS, 37% of cyclists feel safe all the time when cycling alone, 56% feel safe sometimes, and 7% never feel safe cycling alone.
In 2021, it was reported that there were around 6.5 million people in England who participated in cycling. That means that we can estimate around 455,000 cyclists in England don’t feel safe on the roads.
The survey data also uncovered that men feel safer than women on the roads. When asked how safe they feel cycling alone:
- 46% of men answered “yes all the time” compared to just 27% of women
- 48% of men said “yes sometimes” compared to 63% of women
- 5% of men reported they never feel safe, compared to 9% of women
- Overall that’s 95% of men who said they feel safe on the roads in some way vs 89% of women
According to our survey data, cyclists start to feel less safe on the roads as they age. 1 in 10 cyclists over the age of 55 reported that they never feel safe cycling alone, compared to just 3% of 16-24-year-olds who reportedly feel the same way.
What makes cyclists feel unsafe when cycling alone?
Poor road conditions such as uneven terrain, potholes and a lack of cycling lanes are the main reason why cyclists feel unsafe when cycling alone on the roads in the UK, according to our survey of over 2,000 cyclists.
|Why do cyclists in the UK feel unsafe when cycling?|
|Ranking||Reason to feel unsafe when cycling||% of Brits who agree that this makes them feel unsafe|
|1||Poor road conditions such as uneven terrain, potholes and a lack of cycling lanes||53|
|2||Weather conditions such as rain, fog, snow, wind||50|
|3||Unpleasant or abusive behaviour from drivers and/or pedestrians||47|
|4||Unpleasant or abusive behaviour from drivers and/or pedestrians||47|
|5||Cycling at night||43|
|6||Lack of visibility on the roads when it’s dark||41|
|7||Unsafe practices from other cyclists||21|
|8||Not having other cyclists with me in case something goes wrong||19|
Survey data also illustrated that as the age of the cyclist increases, fears about cycling due to poor road conditions increase.
What experiences make cyclists feel unsafe on the roads?
We asked our survey participants whether negative first-hand experiences have impacted their feeling of safety on the roads. It was uncovered that:
- 37% of cyclists feel less safe since witnessing an accident or injury happening to someone else when they were cycling
- 35% of cyclists feel less safe since experiencing verbal abuse whilst cycling
- 32% of cyclists feel less safe since witnessing verbal abuse happening to another cyclist
- 27% of cyclists feel less safe following an accident or injury maintained whilst cycling
Gen-Z and millennials, or cyclists between the ages of 16-34, appear to have been the most shaken after witnessing an accident or injury happen to someone else when cycling. Cyclists who are aged 35 and above, however, cited experiencing verbal abuse as the main experience which has affected their feeling of safety, more than any other factor.
Other experiences which have made cyclists feel unsafe on the roads included hitting potholes, witnessing poor driving by other road users, and stories seen on television.
One participant reported that they feel less safe after they heard that a fellow cyclist had a glass bottle thrown at them, and was knocked off their bike on another occasion.
What are the main causes of fatalities and injuries for cyclists in the UK?
An extensive government report, covering the period between 2004 and 2021, provides numerous insights into road accidents involving pedal cyclists. Key findings include:
- Pedal cycle traffic grew by 62% between 2004 and 2021
- In this time period, fatalities decreased by 17%; however, serious injuries rose by 27%
- 56% of cycle fatalities occurred on rural roads
- During the week, the peak time for pedal cyclists to be seriously injured, or even killed, is between 7am and 10am and between 4pm and 7pm (in other words, rush hour)
Sadly, in 2021, 111 pedal cyclists were killed in Great Britain, whilst 4,353 were reported to be seriously injured.
There is only a small percentage of UK cyclists who report that they never feel safe on the roads. However, the majority state that they “sometimes” feel safe on the roads, which indicates that more could be done to empower and protect cyclists.
The key reason why many feel unsafe, according to our survey data, is unsafe road conditions, including a lack of cycle lanes and potholes in the road. Previous negative experiences also result in a lack of confidence/feeling of safety on the roads, particularly if a cyclist has seen an accident happen to another cyclist.
At Cycle SOS, we commissioned a survey of 2,005 nationally representative cyclists living in the UK. All percentages from the survey, mentioned in this collection of statistics, have been rounded to the nearest whole number.