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Mapping Northern Ireland's cycle collisions

Using road collisions data to detect the most dangerous areas for cyclists
Image CC BY 2.0 |vv@ldzen| (flickr)

Our second datastory from the Detail Data project looked at serious and fatal traffic collisions on Northern Ireland's roads in 2013 and 2014. In total 136 people were killed across Northern Ireland and 1,430 were seriously injured. Of these 1,321 KSI (killed and seriously injured) collisions, 107 involved a cyclist. 7 of these resulted in fatalities.

A host of new road traffic collision datasets for Northern Ireland have just been uploaded to the UK Data Service (mid-September 2015), meaning that we now have access to this vital data stretching back to 1998.

This is a 17-year time span containing detailed data on each collision where an injury resulted: the vehicles involved, resultant casualties and some observations made at the scene that may be factors in determining the cause of collision. Non-injury collisions generally aren't attended by the police and don't appear in these datasets.

In addition to providing information as to when collisions have occured and the extent of injuries suffered, the datasets also include locational data. This allows cycle collisions to be mapped and also for clusters (or "blackspots") to be derived when larger numbers of collisions occur in close proximity to each other. We've created a map that shows where on the roads these clusters are.

The project is open source and the scripts used have been included so that the data analysis can be replicated. In future years, the data can be added to, producing a more comprehensive map of the most dangerous areas for cyclists.

As might be expected, many of the collisions occured around junctions, and also on the most popular routes for cycle use (the larger proportion of the clusters are on the main routes into Belfast, but there are some in Derry, Lisburn and other towns around the country.

Hopefully, having access to this data not only allows these trends to be monitored but also gives cyclists and other road users a greater sense of where danger lies and how to avoid it.

Trends in collisions

During the 1998 to 2014 period there were 3,887 collisions that involved pedal cycles, out of a total of 107,329 collisions involving any vehicle (3.6% of all collisions).

41 cyclists lost their lives on our roads during this time. In each case where another vehicle was involved, it was the cyclist who was killed.

The number of cycle collisions has been increasing in recent years, after an previous decrease from 1998, and in contrast to the trends for all road users. In fact, the highest annual number of collisions observed over the entire time span was in 2014 (329), the most seen in a single year since 1998.

The Road Safety Strategy to 2020 has an overall vision of making NI's roads safer for all road users, and has targets in reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured by 60% and 45% resepectively, against the 2004-2008 baseline. For cyclists, the baseline was 2.2 fatalities and 27.8 seriously injured per year. But instead of falling, these cases doubled to 61 in the most recent year for which there was data. 

There was a 39% increase in the number of road deaths of all road users from 2013 to 2014 (57 to 79). But the general trends in fatalaties and serious injuries for all road users have been on the downturn over the last few years. For each year since 2010, the number of killed or seriously injured road users has been less than half that of the very high level seen 15 years ago.