VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland studied near accidents and collisions between pedestrians and cyclists. According to the results, near accidents occur considerably more often than actual collisions, and pedestrians and cyclists experienced a lower sense of safety in environments with greater near accident frequency.
Cities across the globe have increasingly promoted walking and cycling as healthy and sustainable modes of travel. While these modes are well suited for exercise and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, their growing role raises the significance of pedestrian and cyclist safety. Despite this, near accidents and collisions between pedestrians and cyclists have received limited academic attention. This study aimed to increase knowledge of these events, assess the frequency of near accidents and evaluate pedestrians’ and cyclists’ sense of safety in traffic.
An online survey was used to collect experiences of near accidents and collisions between pedestrians and cyclists occurring in the last three years. The survey was directed to Finnish cities with populations over 100,000, resulting in a sample of 1,046 respondents who walk and/or cycle regularly.
According to the data, near accidents between pedestrians and cyclists occur often, and are approximately 50 times more frequent than actual collisions. This ratio is probably even greater in reality, as respondents likely remember collisions better than near accidents. Only 16 respondents had been involved in a collision during the past three years. Conversely, approximately a third of respondents had experienced a near accident, with most having experienced more than three.
Both near accidents and collisions mostly occurred on pavements and shared pedestrian-cycle paths. However, the number of events was significantly lower on paths separating pedestrians and cyclists from each other. For example, separated paths featured less than half the proportion of near accidents recorded on shared paths. Furthermore, sense of safety and willingness to walk and cycle were lower in environments where near accidents were more frequent. In most near accidents and collisions, the involved parties were travelling in the same direction.
Pedestrian respondents considered the excessive speed of cyclists to be the main road user-related factor contributing to near accidents, whereas cyclist respondents considered unexpected pedestrian manoeuvres most significant. Respondents also felt that users of the same mode are generally considerate toward each other in traffic, but users of different modes are not. Finally, respondents wished that both pedestrians and cyclists would improve their focus on the surrounding traffic to prevent incidents, and that complex traffic arrangements can foster collisions and near accidents.
The findings suggest that although near accidents are common, actual collisions are much rarer. A greater frequency of near accidents appears to co-occur with a lower sense of safety, suggesting a potential relationship between the two. Spatially separating cyclists and pedestrians could prevent collisions and near accidents between the modes substantially, as well as improve these road users’ sense of safety. The significance of excessive cyclist speed and unexpected pedestrian manoeuvres further underlines the potential hazard of shared paths. Finally, results concerning the attitudes of road users suggest that the nature of interactions between pedestrians and cyclists is currently poor. Prevention of near accidents could perhaps increase willingness to walk and cycle as well as improve relations between pedestrians and cyclists in traffic.
The study was carried out by VTT as part of the Traffic Safety 2025 consortium.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland