Cyclist deaths skyrocketing on rural roads – what can be done?

Cycling has always been a keen hobby for us here in the UK, and it’s enjoying a particular resurgence in recent years, partially due to growing climate concerns. The emergence of Covid-19 in Spring 2020 was also a catalyst, as countless more Britons hopped on their bikes to exercise, travel, or just enjoy a bit of fresh air. Sadly though, it’s a phenomenon with a tragic flipside, as the latest statistics show rising numbers of cyclists dying on rural roads. So what can we find out from this research, and what can be done about the issue?

How many cyclists are dying?

According to official data from the Department of Transport, far more cyclists lost their lives on rural roads in 2020 than in any of the years leading up to it. A total of 89 cyclists were killed, a jump of almost 50% from 60 deaths in 2019. It’s not only troubling in itself, but also in that it indicates a steadily rising trend, as 48 cyclists were killed in 2018. Even more worryingly, these figures are rising despite the fact that far fewer vehicles were using rural roads because of the sharp drop in traffic due to lockdown – which suggests that there were plenty of people driving far more recklessly than they should be on narrow roads and particularly tight turns.

It does go to challenge certain preconceptions that some people have about cycling (preconceptions held by drivers and cyclists alike). It can be easy to find yourself assuming that cycling in cities is more dangerous – especially if you’ve been in the saddle yourself! – but in 2020 at least, countryside roads were unquestionably more dangerous. Two thirds of the total fatalities that occurred last year were on country roads, with the remaining third occurring in cities. That’s a difference of over 3100 people. Well over 3100 lives lost, and thousands of families changed forever.

In recognition of this, NFU Mutual, the specialist rural insurer, has already launched a campaign in partnership with British Cycling and the British Horse Society – collectively representing the majority of rural road users between them. But as well as national campaigns, there’s a lot that you as an individual driver can do to tackle the issue – especially if you drive an HGV.

hgv on rural road

How we can help you here at Vision Techniques

HGVs and larger vehicles like buses and municipal vehicles can pose a particularly potent threat to cyclists for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, is their mass and weight. Unlike in a smaller car, it’s not unusual for HGV to actually be unaware that they’ve even hit someone. That can easily result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities, especially given the speeds that some vehicles reach on rural roads.

This increased risk is also to do with the relative size of HGVs and similar vehicles. In fact, in urban collisions, more than 80% of serious cyclist accidents happen either at junctions or within 20 metres of them, as a direct result of the driver being unable to clearly see what’s around them. That’s exactly why the Direct Vision Standard was implemented in March 2021 (delayed from October 2020 due to the pandemic). Now, drivers of any HGVs moving through London must either meet the requirements of the Direct Vision Standard, or be able to prove that they’ve implemented a ‘Safe System’ that does.

That’s exactly where we can help here at Vision Techniques, with a varied range of cyclist safety products designed to mitigate the risk of accidents, especially in tightly-spaced environments.

Our range includes:

  • VT Turnaware, an advanced video analytics system to eliminate blindspots and help increase driver awareness
  • VT Turnsensor, sophisticated sensors that function by detecting movement within a certain range, giving drivers early warning of fast-moving vulnerable objects (like cyclists)
  • VT Turnalarm, an audible system designed to alert cyclists and other road users of when a vehicle is turning, so that they can be suitably more cautious about approaching or overtaking
  • VT Turnsign, a visual system which alerts surrounding road users of the driver’s intention to turn

These are just a few of the products we offer here at Vision Techniques – if you’ve got a specific area of concern about your fleet, don’t hesitate to talk to a member of our sales team by emailing us on or giving us a call on 01254 679 717, and we’ll be only too happy to see how we can help!