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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

Pedestrians and Cyclists

Pedestrians and Cyclists


Introduction | PDF

This text on pedestrians and cyclists safety, reviews the scientific studies on the magnitude and nature of the safety problem, the contributing accident factors, and the effectiveness of countermeasures.

For information on the development of casualty frequencies and accident circumstances over the period 1996-2005 per European country, please consult the Basic Fact Sheet Pedestrians and the Basic Fact Sheet Bicycles on the Data section of the website.

Diagram & Summary

© EU


Unprotected road users

Walking and cycling are transport modes where relatively unprotected road users interact with traffic of high speed and mass. This makes pedestrians and cyclists vulnerable. They suffer the most severe consequences in collisions with other road users because they cannot protect themselves against the speed and mass of the other party.

Of all journeys, 20-40% are travelled by cycle or on foot, with the highest percentage in the Netherlands and the lowest in Finland. Trips on foot take place most frequently in Great Britain, whereas bicycle trips are most frequent in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. Some groups of traffic participants walk or cycle more than others. These differences are also reflected in their crash involvement. Walking is particularly important for children below the age of 12 and adults aged 75 and above. The bicycle is used most frequently by adolescents (12-17 years of age).

Crash characteristics

Of all traffic fatalities in EU countries, the proportion of pedestrian fatalities is about 17% and the proportion of cyclist fatalities is about 6%. Age groups that have the highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities are children younger than 10 years of age and adults aged 65 years or older. Cyclist fatalities have the highest share among children between 6 and 14 years of age. The percentages for these age groups are about twice as high as the average percentages for all age groups.

Most fatalities, severe and slight injuries to pedestrians and cyclists occur in urban areas. Motor vehicles (cars, lorries, and buses) account for over 80% of vehicles striking pedestrians and cyclists. Crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists occur frequently at facilities designed for pedestrians and cyclists such as pedestrian crossings, cycle tracks, and cycle lanes. This means that these facilities are not necessarily good enough to prevent crashes. However, pedestrian crossings might also be the location at which roads are most often crossed.

Factors that have been identified as contributory factors in the causation of pedestrian and cyclist crashes and injuries are the speed of motorised vehicles, the weight and design of motor vehicles, the lack of protection of pedestrians and cyclists, their visibility and vehicle control, and alcohol consumption.

How to reduce the number of crashes and decrease injury severity

Measures that can be taken to reduce the future number of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists, and/or to decrease the severity of resulting injuries, relate to:

Special regulations for pedestrians and cyclists

Pedestrians and cyclists are both subject to the traffic rules defined in the Vienna Convention of 1968. In some countries, additional regulations have been defined. These relate to supplementary regulations regarding mandatory equipment to ensure cyclists' visibility (e.g., pedal reflectors, spoke reflectors), standards for children's bicycle seats (e.g., seat attachment, footrests), minimum age for cycling on public roads, and helmet legislation.