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German Insurers Accident Research (UDV)

Comparison of cycling safety - Germany/Netherlands/Denmark

Rahmenbedingungen und verfügbare Datengrundlagen zu Radverkehrsinfrastrukturen und Unfallgeschehen in Deutschland, Dänemark und den Niederlanden
Rahmenbedingungen und verfügbare Datengrundlagen zu Radverkehrsinfrastrukturen und Unfallgeschehen in Deutschland, Dänemark und den Niederlanden © UDV/GDV

The Netherlands and Denmark are considered to be the most bicycle-friendly countries in Europe. In comparison with Germany, the good cycling climate and the particularly attractive and "traffic-safe" cycling infrastructure of these countries are repeatedly emphasized. A study by the German Insurers Accident Research (UDV) therefore examined whether cycling in the Netherlands and Denmark is objectively safer than in Germany and whether the particularly safe cycling facilities used in both countries could make cycling safer in Germany. For this purpose, existing framework conditions and available data bases on cycling infrastructures and accidents in the countries Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands were researched.

An analysis of the regulations showed that the bikeway design  along the route are selected according to different criteria and scales. In all three countries, the choice of bikeway design depends initially on the traffic load and the permissible speed of motorized traffic. In Germany, the different design options are grouped into four different load ranges. The boundaries between these areas tend to be "soft" or "fluid". In the Netherlands and in Denmark, there are partly different forms of bikeway design than in Germany and the boundaries between different design principles are rather hard.

Comparisons can be made on the basis of mobility indicators. The comparison of the trip length in cycling shows that in Germany and in Denmark a similar trip length is covered on average with 3.9 and 3.46 km, respectively. In the Netherlands, the average trip length is much lower at 2.43 km. The Dutch use bicycles for shorter trips than the Germans and Danish, but they cover more kilometers per inhabitant and day (2.51 km) than the Germans (1.36 km) and Danish (1.58 km). Furthermore, the comparison of the daily transport performance shows that in the Netherlands 8.3 percent of the daily transport performance is performed by bicycle, whereas in Germany only 3.5 percent and in Denmark only 4.1 percent.

Valid comparisons of road safety based on accident indicators can only be made at the national level and only by looking at the number of cyclists killed. In the reference year 2017, the number of fatalities per million bicycle kilometers was 1.5 times higher in the Netherlands than in Denmark and Germany. Comparisons with seriously injured cyclists are hardly possible due to different definitions of the consequences of accidents. Lightly injured cyclists are hardly or not comprehensively recorded by the police in the three countries for various reasons.

For these reasons, an in-depth comparative study based mainly on subjective safety assessments is recommended. A direct comparison of safety on the basis of recorded accident data will probably only be possible on a selective and supplementary basis. Intersections should play a special role in this study, since the feasibility study has shown that accidents with personal injury and bicycle traffic involvement occur at intersections in approximately 60 percent (Denmark and the Netherlands) and 66 percent (Germany), respectively.