Are cyclists at fault in traffic crashes? — NO!—

Senior West Australian Ministers are expressing the opinion that people riding bicycle in traffic are themselves responsible for injuries they […]

Senior West Australian Ministers are expressing the opinion that people riding bicycle in traffic are themselves responsible for injuries they incur as the result of crashes with cars:

Ms Harvey said the data she had seen on serious cyclist accidents was worrying. “The vast majority of cycling accidents where there’s been a very serious injury appear to be the cyclist’s error in contravening signals and contravening stop signs and those sorts of things,” she said. A spokesman for the Minster said an analysis of seven fatal cycling accidents in 2014 showed five appeared to be the fault of the cyclist.

Acting Road Safety Minister John Day made a similar statement in May 2014, based on an undated report attributed to the TEACIS system used by WA Police. The reporter who wrote the story in “Perth Now” augmented the scant data by stating “An analysis of fatal and serious crashes between bikes and cars in Perth over the past five years showed cyclists were at fault in 54 per cent of crashes.””

When the Minister for Police and Road Safety is talking about cycling in traffic she continues to express her belief that overall people riding bicycles ignore traffic laws and conventions and are therefore responsible for getting hurt.

She is wrong.

In crashes that involve motor cars, people riding bicycles are NOT responsible in about 75% to 90% of cases, depending on the data used. This is consistent all over Australia, and also overseas research, for instance:

The vehicle driver was judged at fault in 87% of events (Australia -Johnson – 2010).
The majority of the events involved the cyclist and a driver and were due to actions by the driver. (Australia -Johnson – 2014)
80% of vehicles striking cyclists are four-wheeled motor vehicles, as passenger cars, trucks, buses, with a high risk of death as well as of severe injuries for the cyclist (Germany – Orsi – 2013)
The most common type of crash in which cyclists were fatally injured was the cyclist being hit from behind by a motor vehicle travelling in the same lane in the same direction (Australia -ATSB – 2006)
Cyclists have primary responsibility in only 23 percent of all cyclist/vehicle crashes in which they are injured or die. (New Zealand – Ministry for Transport – 2011)


How did the Minister of Police and Road Safety form her erroneous position? The difference is between the data on ALL cycling crashes and the data dealing with traffic related cycling crashes.

Who is at fault in traffic related cycling injuries – data from WA

Most cycling related hospitalisations in West Australia are the result of a person on a bicycle hitting an object or crashing his bike.

In the table below two different data sets looking at cycling related traffic crashes is used. The one favoured by the Police Minister is from TEACIS, a police system, where only 65 crashes and fatalities are available for scrutiny. The other data set is the HDMS (hospital) system, which offers 5197 hospitalisations for analysis.
The TEACIS data was compiled by WA police. The material available publicly was an extracted version and lacked identifying information such as author or date. The report is based on 65 crashes in five years, or an average of about 13 cases per year, presumably where the police was involved.

In 2013 the Bicycle Transport Alliance wrote a report titled “Cycling in traffic: it’s a jungle out there”. As part of our investigation we obtained cycling related hospitalisation data from 2009/10 to 2011/12, a period of 3 years, from the Hospital Morbidity Data System. There were 5197 cycling related hospitalisations, or about 1732 per year. The police data covers a bit over 1% of that!


Data Source  TEACIS cycling crash data 2009-2014 HDMS (Hospital)1.7.2009 to 30.6.2012
Sample size 47 critical injuries, 18 fatalities Total 65 5197
Type of crash Traffic crashes 49% Non collision and hit object 29% Involves motor vehicle 27.7% Non-collision and hit object 72.3%(61% simply crashing, 6.3% colliding with a stationary object, 4.1 % collision with another cyclist)
Topography Straight and Curve 70% Intersection 18%
At fault Cyclist 54%This includes ALL crashes, including the ones that did not involve motor vehicles Motor Vehicle 39% Not determined Not determined

Attributing the fault to cyclists in 54% of the 65 crashes analysed is correct, but it is not related to traffic crashes.

Police Data:
Looking at the 49% of crashes that are in traffic, and 39% of all crashes being the fault of the motor vehicle driver, we find the cyclist is at fault in 10% of the traffic crashes captured in the TEACIS system. This corresponds broadly with other research that is focused of cycling/car crashes
Hospital data:
The larger data set revealed that 72.3% of cyclists’ accidents which required hospital admission did not involve a motor vehicle, most of them were the result of cyclists simply crashing, and some were due to hitting a stationary object or crashing with another cyclist. They were “the fault of the cyclist”. About a third of these hospitalisations involve kids under 18.

It would be inappropriate to involve the Police Minister, the Premier or the Office of Road Safety in discussion how to deal with issues of cyclists simply crashing.
Our discussions with the police are focused on the 27.7% of cycling hospitalisations that involve a motor vehicle, and where in about 80% of cases the motorist is at fault.

About Heinrich

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