An initiative led by Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster, has catalogued the daily cycling experience of over 1,500 cyclists across the UK to calculate a per-mile near miss rate for people cycling in the UK.
The Near Miss Project found that near misses are an everyday experience for cyclists in the UK and that rates are similar for people living inside and outside London; they were higher during the morning peak.
The rates for those on touring weekend rides were lower but when incidents did happen they tended to be more serious.
Cycling speed is the main factor affecting near miss rates: those who reach their destination at an average speed of under 8 mph have around three times more near misses per mile compared to those who get there at 12 mph or faster.
Each of the 1,532 participants in the research kept a diary of a day’s cycling between 20 October and 2 November 2014.
They recorded all of their journeys by bike, noting any incidents they found scary or annoying, both ranked on a scale of 0-3.
3,994 incidents were recorded, with researchers concluding that the average cyclist in the UK will be involved in a ‘very scary incident’ around once a week, and 60 such incidents each year.
According to the research, the ‘vast majority’ of incidents fell into one of five categories - being blocked, being passed too close, another vehicle pulling in or out across a cyclist’s path, being driven at, and a near left or right hook.
While blocking incidents tended to be viewed as annoying but not so scary, issues such as close passes were much more likely to be seen as very scary.
Participants in the study said they believed most incidents could have been prevented – three quarters could have been avoided if other road users acted differently, and half if the road layout or condition were better, or separated infrastructure provided.
The research included qualitative responses from cyclists who had been involved in near misses. Lorena (not her real name) from Sheffield, said:
One driver overtook extremely close while I was in a narrow cycle lane. The driver’s nearside wheels were on the outside line of the cycle lane. There was no oncoming traffic and they were followed quickly by another driver passing similarly closely. I felt scared, the overtake was extremely close and quite fast and the first driver was in a large SUV. Annoyed as it was completely unnecessary, there was no oncoming traffic, the drivers simply made no attempt to move to the right.”
Sally Moore, head of the personal injury team at Leigh Day who attended the launch of the report at the University of Westminster on 7 September 2015, said:
“Unfortunately the incidence of near misses for cyclists remains a constant danger, and sometimes it is only inches which make the difference between life and death or serious injury.
“despite this, we do believe cycling is a positive past time and we want more people to feel safe on their bikes so any research which can go some way to highlighting this very real and present danger is to be supported.”
Dr Aldred commented: “Many of these incidents correspond to types of injury collision, so it looks like collecting near miss data could help prevent injuries.
"Moreover, growing evidence suggests such incidents put people off cycling, and so reducing them could increase cycling uptake.
“Given cycling’s multiple benefits, it’s crucial cycling both is safe and feels safe, and near misses are an important part of the picture here.”
The second edition of the Near Miss Project will start on 19 October and riders can sign up here