Cycle paths more dangerous than roads

Here is a interesting article from the Canberra Times

Canberra Times, 20 March 2012

Canberra’s off-road “cycle paths” have become a free-for-all and are the site of more serious bike accidents than roads, new research has revealed. Researchers from the George Institute interviewed 313 cyclists who presented to the ACT’s two hospital emergency departments after accidents.

George Institute research fellow Liz de Rome said she had been surprised to discover the average injury severity was more serious for accidents that occurred on shared pathways than on roads.

Quick scan of the article indicates that these accidents are the result of cyclists travelling at high a speed on paths that were designed for traditional ‘upright’ cyclists gentle progress.

It has become increasingly obvious that the compulsory helmet imposition has severly reduced the numbers of this style of utility cyclist.   Whilst cycling figures have started to slowly recover from this token government contribution to cycling ‘safety’, the recovery has been predominately in the mountain and road bike numbers.  Utility cyclists are still few and far between, yet it is this group that we need to encourage most of all.

A by product of compulsory helmet laws is that people now see cycling as a form of recreation and or exercise rather than transport.  The type of bikes purchased and the manner in which they are used reflect this view.  Wearing a helmet for them is part of the ‘kit’ so they require no encouragement, and better still, will buy a quality helmet that fits properly.

The utility cyclist, on the other hand, is more likely to be reluctant to wear a helmet as they find them an inconvenient encumbrance for short trips. If  they wear a helmet at all it is most likely the cheapest they could buy, well past it’s use by date with poor fittings often with the chin strap unfastened, I’ve even seen them worn back to front.  In short the only protection they provide is from a fine.

 So why are utility cyclists so important?  Because they have  the potential to have the greatest impact on both reducing traffic congestion and improving public health through regular exercise.  Any commuting bike rider will vouch for the therapeutic value, both physically and mentally, of the daily trip to and from work.

You would think that with such obvious benefits and potential savings in road infrastructure and health costs to say nothing about ever rising fuel costs, governments would be in the forefront of encouraging cycling, but not so – there just aren’t enough votes in it as yet.  So we continue with tokenism and ignore established facts. 

Facts such as

  • Having lots of cyclists actually improves cycling safety
  • When a vehicle travelling at 40 kph or faster hits a cyclist or pedestrian the most likely outcome is death. (even when the cyclist is wearing a helmet)
  • The level of obesity with its resulting health costs will become a major taxation load on the community.

That’s enough of a ramble for now.

About Peter Bartlett