Mayor can't back up claim that two-thirds of cycling injuries caused by cyclists breaking law

Despite repeated requests, neither City Hall nor Transport for London has substantiated Mayor Boris Johnson's claim that two-thirds of serious cyclist crashes took place because the cyclist had broken the law.

The Mayor's claim is strongly at odds with previous data, which shows that when adult (aged over 24) cyclists were involved in serious collisions between 2005-07, the motorist was most likely at fault in around two-thirds of cases (see graph above).

Chief executive Ashok Sinha said, "Saying the majority of cyclists are responsible for their own injuries, contrary to the evidence, contributes to a culture that excuses motorists who drive badly, and undermines the strong case for increasing investment in safer cycling infrastructure." 

""If the Mayor can't show his figure is correct, he should set the record straight and acknowledge that, in the majority of cases, collisions that seriously injure cyclists have the responsibility attributed to the motorist."

Speaking at Mayor's Question Time on Wednesday 23 May 2012, Johnson said (after 2:31.40):

"I've seen a figure, I think, of 62%, which is the high proportion of cycling KSIs that are associated with some infraction by the cyclists themselves of the rules of the road."

[KSI = killed or seriously injured] 

His claim is at odds with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) figures, which are based on police reports of the causes of collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles.

According to the TRL study, only in crashes involving children and under-25 adults were cyclists predominantly at fault, although there's no record as to whether these cases also involved the law being broken.

The TRL study found adult cyclists shared resposibility with the motorist in about one in ten collisions, and were solely responsible for only a quarter of cases (but, again, there's no implication the law was broken).

These figures are backed up by a 2010 Transport for London study (the table on p22) that found motorists were responsible for crashes nearly three times as often as cyclists:

Attributed to cyclist 1860 times

Attributed to motorist 4796 times

* the figures above are for the main three causes: (1) not looking properly, (2) failing to judge another's speed/direction, (3) carelessness or recklessness

The Mayor's unsubstantiated claim came in response to a question from Conservative Assembly Group leader Andrew Boff, in which the latter claimed only "a tiny minority" of cyclists stopped at red lights on his way to work.

Only last month, the London Cycling Campaign was forced to respond to Addison Lee chairman John Griffin, who similarly claimed that the poor behaviour of cyclists is the chief cause of collisions, despite a lack of evidence.

In 2008, Johnson was filmed riding through six red traffic lights on his way to City Hall, and the Evening Standard found cars and motorbikes, as well as cycilsts, routinely disobeyed red lights.


This is not exactly compelling watching but it makes the point.

Broadway Market/Goldsmith's Row


  • By ron at 1:52pm 25 May 2012

Reply to AndrewBoff re Broadway Market RLJ post. The video shows many cyclists RLJ'ing - a scene that could be repeated across London. I posted a response on youtube which I won't repeat here.

This isn't a justification for RLJing, but the fact that many cyclists RLJ doesn't negate the message in the blog post. There is no principle safety difference between crossing a light controlled intersection against the lights if the same precautions are taken as would be taken at a non-controlled intersection. The law is what makes it wrong not safety. If you think this statement is wrong then you need to produce the empirical evidence to show it.

Just for the record I don't approve of RLJ'ing because it too often results in cyclists treating pedestrians in the same way they don't like motorists treating them.

  • By BrianW at 9:43pm 25 May 2012

We should stop talking about RLJ and start asking " WHY IF IT WAS SAFE TO CROSS DIDN'T THE LIGHT TURN GREEN ALREADY ? "   Many lights don't detect cyclists & you have to wait untill a car or truck come along to be behind you as u pull away.  The fundamental timings of traffic lights are for motorists & most are simple timers.. we can do better with modern technology & speed junctions for all road users...Often it is safe for cyclists to cross half a duel carrage way, when cars couldn't. The Talk ( about cyclist RLJ) is dangerous it affacts drivers mentality... Once I set off on red at some road work lights, genuinely wanting to get past the cones & avoid holding up the cars when green came.. But the front car came after me in wheel spinning tyres squealing rage.. turned out to be a nurse on her way to work .     The vast majority of highway code infringements are by motorists routinely speeding & phoning.. I do agree with Ron's coment  Cyclists shouldn't terrify pedistrians, Even if pedestrians are in the cycle lane or the road give them room, & be caring.

Worse than Boris's going through six red lights must have been the behaviour of whoever it was who was able to follow Boris through those six red lights while taking photographs. We must blame Boris, I suspect, for not only encouraging cyclists to run red lights, but encouraging poor innocent paparazzi, on big powerful motorcycles, to run red lights too.

That said, if Boris thinks that cyclists are at fault two thirds of the time, that belief is probably based on something along the lines of a belief that cyclists are breaking the law two thirds of the time.

We must remember that Boris's own cycling culture comes from Britain's only true cycling culture, Oxbridge students, the likely source of his cycling beliefs. (I don't think that Eton, or Windsor/Slough, another possible source, has much of a cycling culture)

It's a terrifying thought that those people, present not only at Oxbridge, but many universities round the world, with their combination of ignorance and arrogance, will be the likely foundation of any wider spread of a British cycling culture

Jeremy Parker

Andrew's video of cyclists at Broadway Market linked above is really illuminating. Firstly it puts the lie to his assertion that he is "in a very tiny minority of cyclists who stop at a red light". Actually the majority of cyclists respect the lights.

We cannot repeat often enough that the linking of cyclists' lawbreaking to casualties is utterly misleading. The mayor's refusal to apologise tends to support those drivers who blame innocent cyclists rather than admit to their own carelessness.

There is no evidence supporting the view that cyclists break road rules any more or less than other road users.

The video shows two or three examples of reckless cycling, where pedestrians are put at risk, yet there are more examples of cyclists being put at risk through careless driving. A car overtakes at speed, possibly rushing through the lights on amber. Three cars and a milk float overtake cyclists then turn left across their path. A white van rushes up behind a cyclist following within a few inches of the back wheel. 

All those behaviours are strongly linked with casualty crashes, whereas 'cyclists disobeying lights' is linked to less than 2% of cyclist casualty crashes.

Careless, dangerous and often illegal motor vehicle driving is so endemic that most observers, including many police, just fail to recognise it.

The video also shows two LB Hackney lorries illegally driving through a 7.5 ton weight limit. One of them is an 18 ton lorry the other 26 ton.  They are driving carefully and not putting anyone at immediate risk but the drivers should be aware that the council put in the weight limit to stop this area being an HGV short cut. In recent years three cyclists have been killed near here by HGVs taking short cuts on recognised cycle routes through residential areas.

This post was edited by charlie@lcc at 12:02pm 27 June 2012.

  • By EricD at 9:36am 5 April 2013

Duplicating my coments to AndrewBoff re Broadway Market RLJ post from YouTube:

If your point was that some cyclists don't stop for red lights then that is obviously true to an extent. The real question is 'Is it a problem?'. I would say that most abuse a pedestrian phase - no problem for motorists - good for them as out of their way. Peds cross away from the junction - illegal in many countries.

Sometimes cyclists progress slowly - giving way to pedestrians.

The only time a cyclist comes close to pedestrians, he can be heard to shout "Hey - I had a green light! A family get dragged across one way, and a guy texting walks the other way, between a car and a bike.

Since cyclists are using an under-used pedestrian phase, perhaps there should be a green-for-cyclists phase ? I believe that's being tried at Bow Roundabout - how's it going ?

The biggest problem is cars turning left through a lane of cyclists. Cars need an indicator-repeater visible for cyclists alongside.

The junction needs widening, with footwalk corners more rounded-off : even cars struggle to stay in lane.

Interesting use of the wrong side of the road !

Vans racing on amber are also scary.

[Note we need a wider view, to see pedestrians and lights to make sense of this kind of video ...]

  • By Tomm at 8:33am 19 March 2015

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