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Ireland had the highest rate of increase in cyclist deaths in the EU over 10 years

Between 2010 and 2018, cyclist deaths across the EU fell on average by 0.4% annually. In Ireland, this figure was an 8% increase.

IRELAND HAS RECORDED the highest annual increase in cyclist fatality rates among all EU member states in the past decade.

A new report by a leading EU transport safety body has revealed deaths of cyclists have risen in Ireland by 8% each year on average since 2010 – almost four times the rate of the next worst countries, the Netherlands and France, where rates rose by 2%.

The increase in cyclist deaths in Ireland compares to a 5% annual decrease in the deaths of motor vehicle drivers and passengers on Irish roads over the same period.

The report by the European Transport Safety Council, whose members include Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, has called for urgent action to tackle the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians on European roads.

It follows the finding that cyclist deaths in the EU are declining eight times more slowly than deaths of motor vehicle occupants.

Between 2010 and 2018, cyclist deaths across the EU fell on average by 0.4% annually with half of all 28 EU member states recording a drop in the number of cyclists killed. However, the rate of decrease was more pronounced among vehicle drivers and passengers where fatality rates fell by an average of 3.1% annually.

A look at the numbers

At least 51,300 pedestrians and 19,450 cyclists were killed in the EU between 2010 and 2018.

A total of 332 pedestrians died in traffic collisions in Ireland between 2010 and 2018 with 1,182 seriously injured between 2010 and 2017.

The number of fatalities was split almost evenly between urban roads and rural roads compared to the EU average where 70% of pedestrians are killed on urban roads

The report shows a total of 83 cyclists were killed on Irish roads between 2010 and 2018 with a peak in 2017 of 14 deaths.

In addition, 851 cyclists were seriously injured in road collisions over the same period, although a change in how serious injuries was recorded means the figure is understated.

Since a new reporting system was introduced six years ago the annual number of cyclists seriously injured has risen from 104 in 2014 to 170 in both 2017 and 2018

How we compare

A road user is classified as ‘seriously injured’ if they have been hospitalised for at least 24 hours as an inpatient or suffered either fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushing, severe cuts or shock.

The proportion of pedestrians and cyclists killed on rural roads in Ireland is much higher than the EU average.

The ETSC figures show 65% of cyclists killed in Ireland between 2015 and 2017 died on rural roads compared to the EU average of 42%.

The report noted a new law to combat dangerous overtaking of cyclists was enacted by the Irish government last year.

Motorists face a fine of €120 and three penalty points if they don’t allow a gap of one metre in areas with speed limits of 50km/h or less and 1.5 metres on roads with higher speed limits.

Alternative transportation

The ETSC said sustainable modes of transport such as walking and cycling must be made much safer.

It claimed the slow decline in cycling deaths reflected both an increase in the number of people cycling in several EU countries as well as the failure by authorities at EU, national and local level as well as car manufacturers to invest more heavily in measure to protect vulnerable road users.

The ETSC report revealed that half of all deaths among cyclists and pedestrians on EU roads involve people over the age of 65.

It recommends that increased road safety measures for vulnerable road users be prioritised in urban planning as well as 30km/h limits and traffic calming measures in areas with high levels of walking and cycling.

An ETSC spokesperson said the EU was facing a multitude of challenges including the climate emergency, road deaths and serious injuries; air pollution and obesity.

“Policies that improve road safety of cycling and walking can also make a major contribution to tackling all these challenges,” she added.

(Read more here on how you can support a project from Noteworthy exposing the most dangerous spots for cyclists in Ireland’s cities)

Seán McCárthaigh
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