Cyclist deaths on rural roads increase, data reveals

89 people lost their lives cycling on rural roads last year, despite there being fewer motor vehicles around

Rural road deaths increase in 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Official data from the Department of Transport reports (opens in new tab) that more cyclists died on rural roads in the UK in 2020 than in the two years prior, with 89 people losing their lives cycling in the countryside last year. 

In 2019, 60 people died on rural roads, while 48 were killed in 2018. The increase occurred despite fewer vehicles on the roads due to pandemic restrictions, but the Department for Transport report there was a reduction in fatality rates for cyclists, despite more riders dying than in previous years.

More people started cycling as the lockdown came into effect at the end of March 2020, with increased numbers across the UK opting for two wheels either for their commute or for their daily exercise. As a result, fatality rates dropped.

Charity Cycling UK believes that poor driving is the reason why more cyclists died on rural roads in 2020 though, alluding to drivers taking advantage of quieter roads. 

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said in June 2021: “Tragically, quieter roads during lockdown were taken advantage of by some drivers, with many police forces reporting an increase in speeding and dangerous driving.

“This has to be dealt with better by our legal system, which is why Cycling UK is calling on MPs to support amendments to the Police Crime and Sentencing Bill to fix the fatal flaws in our road traffic laws, including longer driving bans for those who put other road users at risk.”

Rural roads were also deadlier than those in urban areas, with a total of 140 cyclists dying in 2020 - meaning that fatalities on rural roads accounted for 64 per cent of the overall number. 

Cycling is the only category of road user where fatalities increased in 2020 too. 

Specialist rural insurer NFU Mutual is now launching a campaign alongside British Cycling and the British Horse Society called Respect Rural Roads (opens in new tab), urging rural road users to take more care to limit the risks for everyone in the countryside. 

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Ryan Dabbs

Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.