RAC Presentation February 2012

The BTA presented to the RAC Council on the 20.2.2012. The focus of the  presentation was how the RAC could help to create a safer environment for people riding bicycles to work, school, shops and train stations, and how the community would benefits from people who use bicycles instead of cars.

The presentation was attenden by Mr Tim Shanahan, President; Ms Esme Bowen, Senior Vice President; Mr Tony Evans, Vice President; Ms Jacqui Ronchi, Councillor; Ms Julie Wadley, Councillor; Ms Jill Darby, Councillor; and Mr Terry Agnew, Chief Executive Officer, Executive General Manager of Advocacy and Member Benefits Pat Walker,  and Head of Member Advocacy Matt Brown.

A PDF of the presentation and note pages can be found here.

A copy with all the embedded animations and videos is available from the BTA office (about 1.2 GB)

My notes are below

Presentation to RAC Council 20.02.11

Slide 1 (Opening)

Thanks for giving me some of your valuable time, and let me thank you for the financial support we have received from the RAC through your grant program, the support from your staff, and that you are running the OLA process for cyclists.

This afternoon I want to talk to you about how to make cycling safer, what the BTA does to improve cycling participation and how the RAC can help to get people to commute to work on bicycles, thus reducing road congestion and pollution.

I will touch on the benefits of people riding bicycles, and the weakness of the “Towards Zero” strategy for vulnerable road users (and how another country has benefited from a different strategy).

Slide 2 (Health Benefits)

The World Health Organisation suggests that a sedentary life style is among the ten leading causes of death and disability in the World.

But cycling brings more benefits.

If more people cycle to work, the roads are less congested, and carbon emissions are reduced. I safe 600 litres of fuel per year by cycling to work.

Household transport expenditure at 15.5%  is one of the largest costs for a household in Australia, just behind food at 18.2%. If you replace some car trips with bicycle trips, your transport expenditure will reduce. In my case I safe $5810 per year by cycling to work.

Slide 3 (How the RAC and the BTA can work together)

The BTA tries to improve cycling participation by creating a safer environment when people riding bicycles have to use the road network, and to separate cyclists from cars when either motorised speed or traffic volumes suggest this as a good solution. We research safe cycling solutions, comment on bicycle infrastructure plans and we educate the public via our website. We are showing videos of safe traffic solutions to the public.  During BikeWeek we will be showing videos for eight hours on the big screen in Northbridge. The video “Cycling – the good oil” is available via our website and has been viewed by over 700 people so far on Vimeo.

The RAC can help by supporting legislation that mandates a safe passing distance when a vehicle passes a vulnerable road user, and by supporting substantially lower speeds on selected suburban roads. These roads can be linked to form a network of safe routes for vulnerable road users to get to work, school, train stations and shops, becoming the Perth Bicycle Network.

Apart from trying to create a healthier society, the BTA is concerned about the dangers of cycling on West Australian Roads. For that reason I want to spend a short moment to look at the relevance of the “Towards Zero” Strategy for vulnerable road users.

Slide 4 (Towards Zero)

The “Towards Zero” strategy is focused on cars, not on people. If it were people focused we could say “yes” to the 08/80 rule. This rule asks “would you send your eight year old daughter or your eighty year old grandmother on this road by herself on a bicycle?” If the answer is “yes”, it is a safe road. For instance I would not send my eight year old child on Tonkin Highway on a bicycle – but it has a marked bicycle lane (and has killed cyclists using it).

Talk to the red bullets

Slide 5

We are not the only country with a road safety strategy. Most Western Countries experienced a road trauma peak in the 1970’s.

What is interesting is that Holland and Australia had a very similar road toll in the 70’s, but the Dutch managed to reduce it substantially  more than the Australians.  The Dutch strategy has an emphasis on infrastructure design and road usage principles with the separation of traffic based on mass and speed an important principle. The WA strategy has a large component dealing with behaviour (Getting people to drive safely and at a safe speed).

Lets now look at a short video that shows the historical development of the road safety strategy in Holland. The video will explain why there was a peak of accidents in the 70’s, and how that changed the way the Dutch perceived motorised traffic

Slide 6

The Dutch Statistics on Cycling from the 1950’s to 2010. As cycling participation decreases, cycling becomes less safe and more people die on the roads. After the Dutch created a better environment for cyclists, participation increased and the roads became safer for vulnerable road users.

Slide 7

Countries with the low cycle usage have a high rate of cycling fatalities: Cycling fatalities relative to distance travelled are five times higher in the USA than in Netherlands.

American figures show that about 40% of all trips are less than 3 km – this distance is easily travelled by bicycle in ten minutes, but over 90% are done by car. Australian figures are similar – the median trip length in Melbourne is 2.9km

Statistics from the European Union show that the likelihood of being killed in a road accident per kilometre travelled is seven times higher for cyclists and nine times higher for pedestrians than for people travelling by car.

And if there is high car usage, there is high spending on roads, and little spending on cycling infrastructure. In WA we are spending about $800mio on infrastructure for cars, and about $3mio on infrastructure for people riding a bicycle to work.

It is a question of equality: Is a person in a $60000 car more important than a person on $600 bicycle?

In Perth, the answer is clear.

What is it like to be a vulnerable road user? Let me show two very short clips

Slide 8

In this crash, the person riding the bicycle was killed, but the person driving the car was not injured and the car was not visibly damaged.

Slide 9

I this crash, a child gets hit by a car and sustains serious injuries or is killed (the neck seems to snap on impact), whilst the speaker talks about the severity of crashes at differing speeds.


Let me introduce some interesting concepts from abroad:

I think it was suggested that all RAC councillors would watch the video “Cycling – the good oil”. I would like to refresh your memory with a couple of extracts.

The first segment shows the Senator for Transport for the European Union. He says that the policy has to be that bicycle traffic is being given clear advantages over motorised traffic.

The second segment shows the Mayor of Bogota talking about the folly of building roads to solve transport problems, and their policy of restricting car use.

The third segment shows some of the characteristics that created a good cycling environment in Copenhagen.

In the fourth segment a French Transport Minister talks about the responsibility of stronger vehicles for the slower and lighter vulnerable road users as an underlying principle of the French Transport policies.

In the next segment we have Tom Vanderbilt, who was invited to Perth by the RAC last year, talking about losing eye contact when we travel at 20 mph.

In the last segment the Mayor of Portland explains how they will use low speed greenways to make cycling safe.

Slide 10

Cycling the good oil

Slide 11 (Lower speeds)

The Swedish “Vision Zero” suggests that bicycles and pedestrians should be separated from car traffic, and where this is not possible, the Swedish strategy acknowledges the need to give pedestrians and cyclist priority over car traffic – particularly by reducing speed .

At lower speeds vulnerable road users have a  better chance to escape permanent injury,  demonstrated in London where the introduction of 20 mph (32 kmh) zones has resulted in a casualty reduction of 41.9% – “the percentage reduction was greatest in younger children and greater for the category of killed or seriously injured casualties than for minor injuries”.

In September 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it “strongly recommends the responsible authorities to introduce speed limits of 30kph in all residential areas and on single-lane roads in urban areas which have no separate cycle lanes.”

Senior Lecturer Jan Garrard of Deakin University explains:  “Australian parents risk being blamed (and feeling personal guilt) if their child is injured cycling or walking to school. As a result we are putting kids into cars to keep them safe from cars”

Having a network of roads with a 30kmh speed limit for cars is a huge benefit to the community. Walking, cycling or the use of gopher cars should be a safe alternative to reach train stations, shops, schools or local attractors.

I am suggesting that the roads that form part of the Perth Bicycle Network should have a legislated maximum speed of 30 kmh. These roads should be clearly marked both with signage and with on-road markings, and flanking infrastructure measurements should be implemented where possible and appropriate, for instance narrowing the entrance to these roads, speed cushions or other measures, following the principles of self explaining roads.

Having a clear concept on how these roads should perform will allow us to re-align the Perth Bike Network to fit in with Directions 2031 and Transit Oriented Design.

The PBN network needs to be realigned with the primary focus of safe access to train stations, schools, shops, local attractors and connections to the Principal Shared Paths. A secondary focus would be the connection between localities.

Slide 12 (Safe passing distance

28 American states have legislated a safe passing distance between 3 and 5 feet.

Being run over by a car travelling in the same direction is one of the most frequent causes of police reported car/bike collisions.

A study in Melbourne that analysed 127 hours of helmet-cam footage concluded that car drivers were at fault in 87% of incidents with cyclists, with sideswiping the most frequent type of incident Based on that study a cyclist using public roads would expect some sort of incident every three hours.

A safe passing distance is a recommendation in WA, and Police are reluctant to engage in action against car drivers who clearly pass too closely. The BTA has two well documented cases where the Police has not taken action.


Darren Strudwick, a 43 year old experienced bicycle rider was riding his bicycle home from work in November 2010, and was killed by a car travelling in the same direction.

In Secret Harbour, in December 2010, an 18-year old cyclist was run over by a four-wheel drive travelling in the same direction and dragged along for 75 metres. He had to be air-lifted to Royal Perth Hospital with serious injuries.

In March 2011 a 59-year old women who was killed whilst cycling in a marked cycle lane along Tonkin Highway.

A safe passing distance of one metre when overtaking a bicycle should be more than a recommendation to car drivers. It should be part of the traffic code, so car drivers who overtake in an unsafe manner can be fined.

Legislating the one metre passing distance needs changes to the Australian Road laws . (To achieve this, representation needs to be made to the Australian Road Rules Maintenance Group (ARRMG).

We would like the RAC to support the legislative process to change the Road Traffic Act, resulting in a mandated safe passing distance between cyclists and motorists.

Slide 13 Let’s make Perth a better place….

I am coming back to a comment I made at the beginning: People who use a bicycle to ride to work have to use public roads.

We know that the safest solution for cyclists is to have cycling infrastructure physically separated from cars. A white line on a 100 kmh highway is not enough to protect a cyclist.

Where people riding bicycles and walking have to share the road with motorists, we need a legislated safe passing distance, and lower speeds.

A breakdown service by the RAC would emphasize the theme of mobility for these road users, 91% of which are also RAC members.

Slide 14 ( More information)

The RAC as a mobility organisation can play a major role to create a safe environment for all users of public roads.A safer environment for people who choose to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car, will achieve many societal and environmental benefits, in addition to the obvious benefits such as a reduction in congestion. Vulnerable road users would benefit if the RAC supported a legislated passing distance, and lower speeds on selected suburban streets.

Thank you for letting me talk to you.

About the Author

Promoting everyday cycling