“Halving the risks of cycling by 2020 per kilometre cycled”


“Halving the risks of cycling by 2020 per kilometre cycled”:
ECF Charter on the 4th EU Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020

State: 19/04/2010

The European Cyclists’ Federation and its 58 members in 37 countries call upon the European Union and all national, regional and local governments to make the coming 10 years a decade for more and safer cycling. The individual health benefits of cycling greatly outweigh any risks involved – not to mention the benefits to the environment and quality of life.

The current reality is that many people do not cycle at all because of safety fears. These fears need to be tackled now.

In particular the most vulnerable members of society – children, elderly, disabled – have been the victims of a transport system that has focused for too long on automobile mobility. What we need is a new culture of city and transport planning that fully respects everyone’s basic right to safe mobility.

Governments at all levels should embrace the Safety in Numbers and Vision Zero principles. “Safety in numbers” supports the idea that cycling gets safer the more people do it. The “Vision Zero”, adopted by the Swedish government in 1997, is that eventually no one will be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system. Safety and mobility cannot be traded against each other.

Although the EU’s target of halving road deaths by 2010 will not be reached, it has contributed to at least a 30% reduction in deaths over the past decade. We therefore strongly support renewed targets in the forthcoming Road Safety Action Programme (4th RSAP). Within this, ECF asks for a set of measures to be implemented in order to halve the risks associated with cycling between 2010 and 2020. While ECF also supports an overall target in absolute numbers for the forthcoming decade for all transport users, we stress that it is important to ensure that simple casualty and fatality reduction targets do not deter national and local authorities from pursuing the aim of more (as well as safer) cycling: the Safety in Numbers evidence shows that they can and should go hand in hand. Therefore, the forthcoming Road Safety Action Programme at European level should also set “rate-based” targets for cyclist safety, measures in number of trips or km’s cycled.

Measures taken specifically at an European level should include:

? Collecting statistics and financing research: We need comparable data at EU level on cyclist casualties and further detailed research inter alia into the causality of cycle accidents and policies and interventions to improve cycle safety;
? Financing education and awareness raising campaigns: Both cyclists as well as car, van and lorry drivers should be addressed;
? Promoting and financing cycle-friendly infrastructure;
? Managing speed;
? Setting technical standards: This applies to safe car fronts, intelligent speed assistance, bicycle lighting as well as the design and equipment of heavy goods vehicles;
? Enforcing existing traffic codes across the EU.

Road safety is a shared European and national responsibility. All governments at all levels need to take their responsibility now!

Safety in Numbers

There is good evidence to support the idea that cycling gets safer the more people do it. Many examples across Europe show that steep increases in cycling can go with reductions in cycle casualties.

Reasons why the “safety in numbers” effect occurs:

i. Drivers grow more aware of cyclists and become better at anticipating their behaviour.
ii. Drivers are also more likely to be cyclists themselves, which means that they are more likely to understand how their driving may affect other road users.
iii. More people cycling leads to greater political will to improve conditions for cyclists.
iv. Higher bicycle use often goes together with lower car use, decreasing the risk of conflict with motor vehicles, with consequent safety benefits for all road users.

The “safety in numbers” evidence clearly shows a non linear relationship between the amount of cycling and walking and the risks to cyclists and pedestrians. This means that the more pedestrians or cyclists there are, the lower the risk to each individual pedestrian or cyclist. This does not necessarily mean that increases in walking and cycling will always be accompanied by absolute reductions in pedestrian and cyclist casualty and fatality numbers. However, the key point is that walking and cycling still gets safer for the individual pedestrian or cyclist. It is therefore essential to measure pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries in terms of KSI rates per kilometre (or per trip, or per hour) cycled.

With this in mind, we strongly urge that, in addition to overall road safety targets, the forthcoming Road Safety Action Programme at European level should also set “rate-based” targets for cyclist safety. National strategies on road safety should include this principal target as well. We note that the UK Government is already proposing to adopt targets to halve the rate of KSI per km travelled by pedestrians and cyclists, over the 10-year period of its forthcoming Road Safety Strategy, and we urge the European Commission and national governments to adopt similar targets in the Road Safety Action Programme and national strategies respectively.


Specific measures

1) Statistics and research

Good and comparable data and statistics are the basis for taking appropriate measures in order to improve road safety. Absolute accident and fatality figures per country are only helpful in identifying national trends. As mentioned above, linking the number of fatalities to the distance travelled serves as a better measure in this respect. It measures the frequency of fatalities per unit of distance covered per person and allows comparison between different transport modes. This facilitates monitoring of how well member states are doing in maximising the “safety in numbers” benefits of more and safer cycling.

Apart from good statistics, we need independent research into the causality of cycle accidents, for example caused by blind spots, excessive speed levels, etc.

2) Education and awareness raising campaigns

Both cyclists and motorised road users should be educated on how to behave safely in traffic. Children should ideally receive bicycle training at school as mandatory part of their curriculum.

EU legislation on driving licenses sets minimum requirements for theory and practical tests related to vulnerable road users, due to come into effect in 2013 . The Commission should take steps to ensure timely transposition into national law, and monitor the effectiveness of these measures once implemented. Heavy vehicle drivers should receive regular training on how to use technical equipment correctly (i.e. blind spot mirrors). Their awareness should be raised by campaigns on safe driving. Many good practice examples exist at national level.

Additionally, any future guidelines on driver training and traffic safety education should place emphasis on reducing risks to vulnerable and unprotected road users.

3) Cycle-friendly infrastructure

Road infrastructure should be conducive to cycling. Cycle route networks provided for transport should be comprehensive, safe, direct and attractive. 10 % of the EU financial investment into transport infrastructure should be dedicated to cycling.

The Dutch Bicycle Master Plan sets the following criteria for cycle facilities: where speed and volume (per hour) of vehicles is low, separation between cyclists and other road users is not required - although cycle lanes or tracks might be included for continuity’s sake. Cycle lanes or tracks may be desirable where there are high vehicle speeds and volumes. An alternative to their construction would however be traffic reduction or cycle-friendly traffic calming.

The “Hierarchy of Solutions” recommends that reductions in motor traffic volumes and speeds should be considered first as they are the most effective. The Hierarchy, adopted by the UK Department for Transport, reads as follows:

Consider first


Consider last Traffic reduction
Speed reduction
Junction treatment, hazard site treatment, traffic management
Reallocation of carriageway space (e.g. bus lanes, widened nearside lanes, cycle lanes)
Cycle tracks away from roads
Conversion of footways/footpaths to shared use cycle tracks for pedestrians and cyclists

This suggests that new cycle routes segregated from motor traffic should only be implemented if the other alternatives have proved impossible or unlikely to achieve the desired benefits for cyclists.

ECF asks the EU to spend 10 % of its investments into transport infrastructure into cycling!

4) Speed management

Road safety can be dramatically increased by reducing speeds to a level where accidents do not cause serious injuries. This should be the goal of speed management.

Translated into physical terms this means that the mechanical forces that come with accidents should not exceed a certain threshold the human body cannot tolerate. In keeping with Vision Zero, speed must be limited to a level commensurate with the inherent safety of the road system. Currently, illegal and inappropriate speed is the single biggest contributory factor in fatal road accidents.

i) 30 km/ h in urban areas:

30 km/h should be the standard maximum speed limit in urban areas (at locations with possible conflict between pedestrians and cars).

These zones should be designed in a way so as to incite drivers to respect this speed limit. One example of a simple method is to remove any painted centre-lines on streets in residential and down-town areas and service/shopping hubs, so that the streets feel less like racing tracks. Another and complimentary example is to paint “Bike and Chevron” (recently made part of U.S. Federal signage) on streets reminding drivers and cyclist to share the road. Soft measures such as driver education and awareness-raising campaigns should also be widely deployed. The police needs to monitor whether they are effective. If not, traffic codes should be enforced by stricter speed control measures.

ii) Intelligent Speed Assistance

In real life, police forces are often undermanned in order to enforce the traffic code. According to figures by the European Road Safety Obervatory, 40 % to 60 % of the drivers exceed speed limit. ECF is convinced that Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), fitted into motorised vehicles, would be an effective tool so as to deliver better compliance with maximum speeds.

Case-studies show that ISA is more effective the more restrictive the system is. ECF suggests a step-by step approach, starting with the fitting of supportive ISA (a visual or auditory signal) into fleet cars, such as government cars, buses, private company cars, etc. The European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP), an organisation providing safety assessments of cars, should include ISA into its protocol assessment so as to incentivise car manufacturers to equip their vehicles with ISA. In order to facilitate the deployment of ISA in the EU, the Commission also has an important role in encouraging the development of map databases across Member States. As a long-term goal (2020), ECF asks the EU to adopt legislation for mandatory fitting of cars sold at the EU market with intervening Intelligent Speed Assistance systems, as part of the type approval procedure for cars.

iii) Adoption of an EU Cross-border enforcement Directive on Road Safety

The share of nonresident drivers in speeding offences is around 15 % on average, while nonresidents represent around 5 % of road traffic. In France, 25 % of speed violations caught by speed cameras were omitted by nonresidents. The main reason is the feeling of going unpunished abroad for violations of the traffic code. ECF therefore asks the EU and national governments to re-start the process of adopting an EU Directive on Cross-border enforcement, stalled in 2008.

5) Vehicle Design

Improved vehicle design can contribute to preventing collisions and reducing the severity of injuries where collisions do occur. Priority should be given to former, with the latter as a secondary goal.

Accident prevention can be achieved by tackling speed (see above), but also by tackling another major source of cyclist injuries and fatalities: vehicle blind spots.

i) Blind Spot Mirrors and Detections Systems

The typical blind spot crash occurs where a heavy duty vehicle wants to turn (right or left, depending on continental or UK/Irish traffic code respectively) and overlooks the cyclist who intends to go straight ahead. This type of collision usually has serious consequences for the cyclist. Recent EU legislation on blind spot mirrors, requires vehicles of more than 3.5 tons marketed since 2007 to be equipped with a front view mirror (or camera) and a convex wide angle mirror, and required existing heavy duty vehicles to be retrofitted before 31 March 2009.

Additionally, the EU should look into introducing detection devices, which detect the presence of a cyclist in the blind spot and give the lorry driver an audio warning signal. This system should be further tested, and if proven successful, EU legislation on “type approval of devices for indirect vision or of vehicles equipped with these devises” should be amended accordingly. Existing heavy duty vehicles should be retro-fitted.

ii) Lorry cabin design: material of side-doors

Fewer blind spot accidents happen with busses than with heavy goods vehicles (HGV). This can be explained by the better visibility for the bus driver due to side-doors made of transparent glass. The EU should encourage and finance R&D of new HGV cabin designs and adopt respective EU legislation on the type approval of HGV.

iii) Underrun protection

Due to the size and mass of heavy good vehicles, the problem of compatibility with other road users is a serious matter. Trucks are stiff, heavy and high and may pose a serious threat to the occupants of other vehicles and to vulnerable road users. EU requirements have been introduced mandating front, rear and side underrun protection for trucks with a gross weight over 3.5 tonnes. The current standards leave room for improvement.

iv) Safe car fronts

Since the end of 2005, EU regulations have come into force, which impose measures to reduce collisions with pedestrians. More could be achieved if cyclists were also taken into account. Cyclists land on a different part of the vehicle: whilst pedestrians mainly land on the bonnet, cyclists usually hit the windscreen and its metal frame. Stricter test requirements are therefore required. One of the measures that would contribute to injury prevention is outer airbags on the windscreen.

This device could reduce fatalities from this sort of collision by 75 % and save the lives of hundreds of cyclists in the EU annually. ECF is calling on EuroNCAP to include cyclists’ safety in its protocol assessment. By 2015, the airbag system should be fully operational.

v) Adaptation of Daytime Running Lights

EU regulation mandates new cars and light vans to be equipped with Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) as of 2011. DRLs are meant to deliver “net benefits for Europe's road safety record”.

ECF has not been in favour of mandatory DRLs. We believe that they will make pedestrians and cyclists relatively less visible compared with motorized vehicles. Also, a psychological shift might take place: car drivers might expect pedestrians and cyclists to watch out for them as they are better visible instead of the other way round.

ECF demands that after 3 years period (2014) a thorough analysis of accident and fatality statistics has to take place. If it appears that mandatory DRLs have been detriment to unprotected and vulnerable road users’ safety, existing legislation should be amended.

vi) Cycle lighting

The ECF would welcome binding technical minimum specification for bicycle light products at European level, ensuring functionality and improving visibility of cyclists.

7) Involvement of stakeholders

Road Safety is a common effort. Experiences from national strategies show that their chances of succeeding are higher when stakeholders are involved from the very beginning. ECF therefore asks governments at all levels to involve cyclists’ user organisations when it comes to planning, implementing and assessing road safety strategies.

Additional areas prposed for discussion. Expanded if agreement is reached to include them:

8) Shared space methodology ( Developed, promoted and implemented by Hans Monderman, Ben Hamilton-Baillie and others, also as part of a EU programme)
9) Helmet campaigns or compulsion for cyclists : The ECF charter should not shy away from trying to tackle this, e.g. saying that helmets are a restrictive measure as classified in the EU research program PROMISING, and that research into compulsion reveal no clear benefit. The end result, might become to not mention helmets in the charter, but it needs to be discussed.
10) A somewhat similar situation to the one regarding helmets is developing regarding campaigns and compulsion on high-visibility vests etc.
11) The tendencies of victim blaming should be illustrated, and discouraged. An alternative philosophy is “Strict Liability”, a concept well developed in NL and DK. Also see Road Danger Reduction.
12) Road danger reduction ( see e.g RoadPeace web site ) as an alternative or supplement to road safety
13) Are statistics on accidents sorted by the mode of the counterpart, as important or more important than the traditional ones thast only shows the mode of transport of the victim ? Perhaps statistics by pairs of modes victim-counterpart are most instructive ?
8)14) There is a need for a wider view of road safety. Those measures that entail co-benefits for public health, environment, efficiency and liveability in cities, equity, deep sustainability/sustainable development, the Millennium goals etc, should get more attention than other measures precisely on that merit. Cycling, as we know, scores high on the metric of win-win situations/win-win solutions. Road safety does not exist in a vacuum. Even the Moscow declaration signed in 2009 at the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, contains points in this vein. (“Begin to implement safer and more sustainable transportation, including through land-use planning initiatives and by encouraging alternative forms of transportation;”)