An increase in the rate of cyclists being seriously injured on Scotland’s roads has prompted alarm from the head of the country’s cycling development body.
His concern comes because the number of riders being seriously hurt has gone up faster than the increase in cycling over the last few years.
Cycling Scotland chief executive Keith Irving said the rate had “gone in the wrong direction – it has unfortunately gone up”.
The number of serious injuries went up from 138 in 2010 to 171 in 2017, although provisional figures showed they fell to 156 last year. There was one fewer death in 2018 than the seven in 2010.
The frequency of deaths and serious injuries has increased, from 0.54 for every million kilometres cycled in 2016 to 0.61 in 2017.
The way the figures are calculated was changed in 2016, so direct comparison cannot be made with previous years.
However, the rate in 2015 was 0.49 and 0.45 in 2014.
The statistics will be published shortly in Cycling Scotland’s latest annual cycling monitoring report, which shows an increase in cycling.
A total of 12 per cent of people said they had cycled for at least 30 minutes in the previous month in 2016 compared to 9 per cent in 2009-10.
Cyclists accounted for 3.8 per cent of commuters in 2017, up from 2.7 per cent in 2012.
Research on the serious injury rate rise is ongoing.
However, Dave Du Feu, of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said: “It is very disappointing to see the significant rise in deaths and serious injuries per million km cycled.
“Use of mobile phones (both handheld and hands-free) must be a prime candidate.
“We would like to see government investigating automatic detection equipment for mobile use in vehicles, since there seems no other solution to this growing menace to lives and limbs on our roads.”
Mr Du Feu said higher-speed roads were the most dangerous for using a bike and applauded Police Scotland for considering extending average speed cameras to other roads in Edinburgh following its “highly-successful” experiment on Old Dalkeith Road.
Grace Martin, Scotland director of cycle and walking route developers Sustrans, said: “Having a large network of well-designed, continuous cycle routes which are separate from motor traffic is key to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people who travel by bike.
“But whilst this has been recognised by Transport Scotland who, since 2017, have increased their investment in the creation of new, safer active travel [walking and cycling] routes across the country, the first of these projects are just being completed now.
“Scotland still has a long way to go before there is a comprehensive network of segregated cycle routes across all of its towns and cities.
“However, it is clear there is an appetite for change, with cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh leading the way in how they can improve to become places which are safer and easier for everyone to travel.”
Transport Scotland said total cyclist casualties were down by 12 per cent to 638 in 2017.
Its spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is wholeheartedly committed to improving the safety of vulnerable road users including cyclists, which is why they were identified in 2016, two years before the UK Government, as a priority area in the mid-term review of Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020.
“We have maintained the recently doubled the active travel budget at £80 million to build safe and accessible protected infrastructure for walking and cycling across Scotland.
“In addition, this budget has also supported innovative behavioural change campaigns including the Cycling Scotland #GiveCycleSpace campaign, Operation Close Pass and various Road Safety Scotland campaigns to help change behaviours and better safeguard vulnerable road users in our communities.”
A Cycling Scotland spokesperson said: “It is great that the number of people cycling in Scotland is steadily increasing - for environmental, health and economic reasons.
“Unfortunately, while good progress has been made on reducing road casualties over the past ten years, serious injuries to people riding have increased in parallel with the rise in cycling.
“The need for further action to tackle the increase in serious injuries is recognised in the current Road Safety Framework and should be a key priority in the new framework for 2020-2030.
“The only way to improve cycling safety is comprehensive action across the 4 Es of road safety: engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement.
“The investment in new dedicated cycling infrastructure, more cycle training and enforcement like Police Scotland’s Operation Close Pass are all critical steps in ensuring the safety of people cycling.”