Are more cyclists than ever dying on Irish roads?

Posted on: June 16th, 2017

Fact Check: Are more cyclists than ever dying on Irish roads?

Fact Check: Are more cyclists than ever dying on Irish roads? It may seem like more and more cyclists are being killed in the Republic of Ireland. Here’s the numbers since 1990 (Source: RSA and Garda data)


More cyclists than ever dying on Irish roads?


It seems barely a week goes by without cyclists being killed on the roads of the Republic this year.

As fellow cyclists, these deaths seem particularly cruel; traumatic even.

We know it could be us. As cyclists we have also known some of the people who’ve died out on their bikes in recent years.

And we cycle on the same roads as our brothers and sisters of the bike who never came home.

We have had an especially black period of late; 9 people have died while cycling on the Republic’s roads so far this year compared to 10 in all of last year.

That doesn’t mean the deaths will continue at that rate; hopefully recent months will prove a horrible deviation.

But what are regular trends anyway? And are more cyclists than ever being killed on the Republic’s roads?

A review of trends since 1990 reveals the number of cyclist deaths per year has been reducing.

The numbers haven’t gotten lower year after year; the pattern has been less predictable. But taken over a very long period time, the trend is unquestionably lower.

In the shorter term though, the number deaths this year is real worry.

If trends seen in the first half of the year were to continue for the remainder of 2017, the number of cycling fatalities would reach 18.

That would be higher than at any time for 15 years. It was 2002 when cycling fatalities last reached 18.

But it is complete speculation to project forward six months and to declare now that 2017 is the worst for 15 years. Only time will tell.

Let’s focus on what we know for sure.

  • In the 10-year period from 1990 to 1999, exactly 280 cyclists died on the roads – an average of 28 per year.
  • Over the next 10 years, 2000 to 2009, there were 116 cycling fatalities. That’s an average of 11.6 deaths per year; 11 or 12 deaths each year.
  • And in the next seven years – from 2010 to the end of last year – some 58 cyclists have died; an average of just over 8. 3 deaths per year.
  • So, 28 per year in the 1990s, just under 12 per year in the 2000s, and just over 8 per year in the current decade.

Most of the reductions, as is clear to see, were made in the 1990s; 40 deaths in 1990 to 14 in 1999.

The reductions have continued, though more gradually over the last 17 years. Of concern, of course, are the trends this year; indeed for the last 3½ years.

For example, 2014 was the first year in six that more than 10 cyclists lost their lives on the roads.

And while that reduced to 9 and 10 in 2015 and 2106, those fatality levels were still above the trends seen in the first years of the current decade.

Is what we have seen in the last three years the start of a trend? Or when we look back will it be seen as a bad period in longer-term trends that remain low by historical standards?

We simply don’t know that yet; the next 12 to 18 months will tell a significant story.

But taken over the longer term; not only is it completely false to say cycling fatalities are at an all time high, they are in fact hovering around all time lows.