What's wrong with new Aviva research on London cycle safety

Aviva vidNew research by Aviva on cycling in London has highlighted the need for urgent action to create safe space for cycling on London’s streets – but some of its methodologies and messaging are misleading, London Cycling Campaign believes.

The insurance company has based its research on 23,000 cyclist crashes reported to police within the M25 over five years, and highlighted the locations where the most incidents took place between 2009-2013. The notorious Elephant and Castle, where space for cycling is urgently needed, tops the list

But this data has been packaged with a press release, infographic and video which, rather than emphasising the need for concrete measures to reduce road danger, focus on other areas. One of their headline findings is that among serious incidents that took place after dark a third involved cyclists not using lights – a figure that the Guardian’s Peter Walker queried. Transport for London figures from 2010 found that of 3,338 factors ascribed in incidents where a cyclist was injured, a lack of lights in the dark or in poor visibility totalled 1.1%. Aviva told Peter that their data is claims data, rather than police data – and is based on a sample size of just 100 incidents, far too small to be meaningful. 

Other figures in the press release focus on the use of helmets and hi-viz clothing, as does the video Aviva have produced. Simon Warsop, Chief Underwriting Officer at Aviva, says in the video: “A number of these are accidents are preventable. So for instance, if you’re a cyclist, please make sure you’re wearing high visibility clothing, please make sure you’re wearing a helmet, protect yourself while you’re out there on these busy roads.” Some of our members choose to wear high-visibility clothing and/or helmets, but LCC believes the decision to do so should be down to the individual. 

Rosie Downes, Campaigns Manager at London Cycling Campaign, said: “It’s frustrating to see this missed opportunity to highlight the real measures that will reduce road danger, and instead yet more guidance issued to cyclists on how they should ‘protect themselves’ on our roads. Of course people cycling at night should be using lights, but Aviva’s ‘headline finding’ – based on claims rather than police data, and a sample size too small to be meaningful - suggests an assumption that the cyclists’ lack of lights was the cause of the incident, rather than considering any unlawful behaviour by the driver. 

"More instructions about helmets and high-viz clothing are an unhelpful distraction from the concrete measures needed to tackle road danger: redesigning our streets to provide safe and inviting space for cycling, reducing risk from lorries, and improving road user behaviour. In the majority of cycle casualties, the fault lies with the driver, so law enforcement and preventing bad driving occurring in the first place must be the priority."