In today’s cycling safety segment, we’ll discuss road cycling safety in London. London is pretty interesting as a European city when it comes to cycling. The UK has a lot of folks who are pretty hardcore into the sport and as a result, lots of cycling champions like Laura Kenny and Bradley Wiggins hail from the UK. Despite a common perception that cycling is more dangerous in London than other European capitals, the data does suggest that safety is improving. Having said that, let’s be realistic; riding safe in such a busy city does require you to be mindful of several important factors.
The Facts – Are you Safe Cycling in London?
To estimate safety we’ll look at two different stats; fatalities and injuries. Fatalities are of course the scariest and most tragic outcomes possible. The figures tell us that from 2021, cycling fatalities in the four European capitals we’re analyzing have decreased overall. Paris saw fatalities decrease to 1 in 2022, while Amsterdam recorded 5. London and Berlin recorded the highest fatalities among this cohort, at 7 for 2022 (although this is a reduction for both cities compared to 2021). An important factor to consider of course is the population of these cities and how many folks are cycling. London and Paris are the largest cities on this list but Paris is recognized for having much more cycling friendly infrastructure. Amsterdam may be a smaller city but its also pretty famous for having a huge proportion of its residents using bicycles. Nonetheless, these figures prove that being involved in a fatal event cycling in these cities is exceedingly rare. However for London in particular, the highest fatalities must be put in context with a less robust cycling infrastructure and lower uptake of the sport vs. other European capitals.
Estimating ones survival cycling in London is one of the lowest bars we can set. We’ve seen that you are unlikely to be involved in a fatal accident, but what about the much more common occurrence of accidents and injuries? This is where the data gets a bit more murky. Data published by London’s transport authority (TfL) estimates that in 2022, there were over 23,000 collisions among all vehicle types in London. The vast majority (~85%) of resulting injuries were classed as minor, with the remainder being classified serious. TfL estimates that 60-70% of all injuries from these collisions were borne by pedestrians, motorcyclists, mopeds, and cyclists. While that leaves us with an inexact number, we can conclude that there are thousands of cycling injuries per year (most minor). When considering the size and scope of London cycling, the figures paint a pretty definitive answer; you are statistically safe in London but the possibility of injuries is real, and one must take great care and make wise decisions in order to remain safe and healthy while cycling in this great city.
Overview of Bicycle Fatalities in Major European Capitals
How to Stay Safe
There is one factor that is present in most cycling fatalities in London (and many other cities also); the presence of trucks (or lorries as they are called in the UK). Countless newspaper articles reporting on these tragic events frequently involve a cyclist not being seen by a lorry driver before a turn. As such, my biggest piece of advice is to be aware AT ALL TIMES of vehicles around you and especially trucks/lorries. I may be accused of taking this to the extreme, but I will almost always slow down or speed up so that I am no where close to one on the road. In addition the best safety tip to avoid any accident with a motor vehicle is to BE SEEN. Wear bright clothing and in the dark winter months in particular, use as many lights as you need to in order to be visible. Make sure to keep your bike well maintained to avoid mechanical issues while on the road. And another tip that’s worked well for me – plan your route with safety in mind. London is increasingly adding cycle routes that are separated from motor traffic, and planning a route that keeps you away from this traffic will generally keep you safer. Do note however that motor vehicles are not the only risks; it is possible for other cyclists to ride irresponsibly as well and present danger. Pedestrians are also omnipresent and can sometimes be unpredictable if distracted or on their phone.
In conclusion, data suggests that cycling in London is safe but like many other activities, not totally risk free. There are a number of things you can focus on to increase your safety and if you do those things, you can enjoy the beautiful city of London safely. In a later segment we’ll review some ride options in London and examine cycling safety in other global cities.
If you live in or are visiting London and are interested in further cycling safety tips, I highly recommend viewing Transport for London’s cycling safety tips page.