Well, the road casualty stats are out again. Good news if you travel by car, as serious casualties are down 9% year-on-year. If you ride a motorcycle, you were 6% less likely to suffer a KSI (killed or seriously injured). Not such good news if you're a pedestrian - only a 3% reduction for pavement-pounders. The wooden spoon however goes to - guess who - cyclists, with a 10% INCREASE in KSIs.
The Quarter 1 results are even more pronounced: comparing Quarter 1 2011 with Quarter 1 2010, there was a 7% reduction in car-occupant KSIs, but a 4% increase for motorcyclists, 16% increase for pedestrians and a massive 26% increase for cyclists. You can't take one quarter in isolation and extrapolate because there are factors like poor weather that distort the trend, but nevertheless it's alarming and real people did die and were injured - these are not just statistics.
What's more alarming is the trend over the last couple of years. The number of pedal cyclists killed increased by 7 per cent from 104 in 2009 to 111 in 2010. The number seriously injured in accidents reported to the police increased by 2 per cent to 2,660.
If there were a 10% increase in cyclists KSIs every year, and a 10% reduction in KSIs overall every year, it would take about 10 years for the number of cycle casualties to overtake casualties for all other transport modes. Is that unlikely? Perhaps, but if cycling increases in popularity significantly and nothing is done to improve cyclist safety, maybe not.
Some might suggest the 'safety in numbers' effect should reduce the casualty rate per mile cycled. If so, that effect should already be operating in central London, so there may be no further gain to be had. In the countryside however, cyclists are still rarer than spotted zebras, and the roads have people like Rowan Atkinson crashing their cars into trees at high speed, blissfully unaware that there might be a cyclist round the next blind corner.
There's one conclusion that can safely be drawn. Britain's road system (and many of the drivers on it) is woefully under-prepared for an increase in cycling, and it is a national disgrace that the Government is prepared to stand idly by and allow a transfer of risk from the least vulnerable to the most vulnerable road users. It's time to get angry.