Figures published earlier this month by Statistics Netherlands show that cyclists account for an increasing share in the number of road deaths. While the number of fatal car crashes has fallen dramatically since 2000 in the Netherlands, the number of fatal bicycle collisions continues to hover around 200 per year. In the past two years, more cyclists than motorists have been involved in collisions.
In 2021, 582 people died in traffic collisions. That is a decrease compared to 2020 when 610 road users were killed. But just like in 2020, cyclists (207) formed the largest group. 175 people died in a car crash last year.
Relatively more bicycle deaths occur on roads where a maximum speed of 50 kilometers per hour applies and both cyclists and cars travel on the road, according to research by RTL Nieuws and the consultancy Sweco.
Anyone who cycles on such a road runs almost nine times as much risk of a fatal collision as on a separate cycle path.
“Ten percent of bicycle kilometers are covered on 50 km/h roads, but they account for 40 percent of fatal collisions,” said Hans Drolenga, mobility advisor at Sweco. With RTL Nieuws, he investigated how many of the frequently used bicycle routes within built-up areas run over 50 kilometers of roads for each Dutch municipality.
According to Drolenga, there are many options for reducing the risks: “Building bicycle paths or going back to 30 kilometers per hour on some roads – then we will have fewer accidents and especially less serious accidents.”
Professor of transport policy Bert van Wee of TU Delft also thinks that infrastructure is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving bicycle safety in the Netherlands.
”If things go wrong on a 50-kilometer road, the impact is heavier. Municipalities should mainly focus on constructing more separate bicycle paths.” Wider bicycle paths and clear markings can also help.
“And if cars and cyclists still have to share the road, it would be a good idea to allow cars to drive a maximum of 30 kilometers per hour,” said Van Wee.