For the last few weeks I have been analysing the STATS19 data as it relates to cycling fatalities and trying to convert it into a more user friendly dataset and also adding in more narrative data where possible, news reports, sentencing details, photos etc. I hope to have this as complete as I can make it by myself in the coming week or so once the final checks are made and then make it available via this website. In the meantime here is an interesting statistical quirk that only became obvious once all the fatalities were plotted on a map.
In 14 years there have been 14 people killed in one small circular area of central London. It is a tragedy to be sure, but not exceptional in itself, that is until you notice that it is only women who have been killed in that area, not a single man.
I’m no mathematician but I have a brief understanding of what a standard deviation is, it explains why from year to year amongst the hundred of millions of journeys taken and the billions of miles travelled we still end up with roughly the same number of people killed on the roads each year with only quite small variations year to year.
Since 2000, 1,408 men and 287 women have died while cycling on Britain’s roads, a ratio of 4.9:1. If we limit the area to just half the country and exclude London the figures are 675 men and 135 women, a ratio of 5:1, almost exactly the same. As the sample size reduces we deviate further from the mean, so for example if we just look at Cambridge the numbers are 32 men and 8 women, 4:1. Or Greater Manchester 51 men and 3 women, 17:1. These variances are expected and the smaller the area the higher the likelihood of variance. Nevertheless it is still quite astonishing that right in the very heart of our capital there is an area that deviates so markedly from the mean. If we start with the national probability of 4.9:1 then the chances of flipping that coin 14 times and always getting the same result is 4,599,865,364/1, that’s four billion five hundred and ninety nine million eight hundred and sixty five thousand three hundred and sixty four to one (feel free to correct my maths, it’s almost certainly iffy).
If national averages were reflected in London then 70 men should have died in this area, yet none have. For some reason, these busy roads are particularly dangerous for women, the details of the fatalities are these…
If anyone has data on the two unknown victims, please get in touch to let me know.
Amongst these deaths we find…
13/14 deaths involve large vehicles, HGVs and buses.
12/14 happen in daylight
12/14 happen in fine weather
7/14 involve vehicles turning left
Unsurprisingly, half the cases involve large vehicles turning left but without more detailed reports we cannot say who arrived at the junction first, the cyclist or the vehicle. That there is at least one case of a vehicle running over a cyclist who was waiting ahead of it in the ASZ shows though that it isn’t just cyclist’s poor positioning at fault, even when they obey the rules they remain in danger. What is clear though is that in this area of the city the danger to cyclists comes almost exclusively from the presence of HGVs on the streets. In such situations we turn to the HSE’s hierarchy of risk control, preferred solution #1 Eliminate the hazard: remove HGVs from city streets. #2 Substitution: swap HGVs for smaller vehicles. #3 Engineering: separate HGVs and cyclists so they do not occupy the same space at the same time.
We know how people are killed but what is not so clear is why women are in much more danger? Some hypothecize that it is due to women actually taking fewer risks, not jumping red lights which instead leaves them in proximity to the HGVs. In Paris they believe the solution to this is to allow cyclists to turn right (left) on red to get them out of the way of vehicles. Other reasons I have seen are lack of experience, lack of confidence (presumably in claiming the lane), poorer spatial awareness or being slower to react to the lights changing.
Whatever the cause it is to London’s great shame that this Ladykiller exists.
lastly, I have found details of 8 of the incidents and it seems that in seven cases the driver was deemed not at fault and in the eighth the driver received a £300 fine. This hardly encourages drivers to be aware of their surroundings, whenever a cyclist is run over on the left of a vehicle it is usually deemed to be an accident not worthy of significant punishment. Is operating a large vehicle in a city and failing to be aware of your surroundings not at least careless and frequently dangerous?