Researchers aim to improve safety between cyclists and motorists

Online incident reporting system to improve understanding of accident causes.
bicycle lying in street after car accident

Are cyclists safe on Australian roads?

It's a question that has long been debated, but academics at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) believe new research could lead to an improved understanding of the risks cyclists face and what's required to improve their safety on Australian roads.

The research project, which is primarily funded through the Australian Government's Road Safety Innovation Fund, comes as collisions between cars and cyclists remained a persistent road safety issue across Australia.

"Research has shown that cyclists can be up to 12 times more at risk of death than car drivers and, in Australia specifically, cyclists make up one in five of all people injured on our roads," USC lead researcher Professor of Human Factors Paul Salmon said.

To combat this, Prof. Salmon plans to implement a new online cyclist incident reporting and learning system – the Cyclists Report of Incidents Tool (CRIT).

"Despite significant progress in enhancing cyclist safety, vehicle-cyclist collisions remain poorly understood, partly because there is no valid and easily accessible cyclist incident reporting and learning system in Australia," he said.

"The CRIT will enable reporting and analysis of cyclist collisions and near-miss incidents and, in turn, enhance our understanding of the contributory factors involved in cyclist collisions."

"This enhanced knowledge will support the development of new interventions designed to enhance cyclist safety and behaviour."

The CRIT system comes after researchers at the Centre for Accident Research, and Road Safety-Queensland (CARRS-Q) found Australia had one of the lowest rates of cycling in the world due to higher perceived safety risks.

"Like in other low-cycling countries, Australian non-cyclists – and women in particular – perceive cycling to be extremely risky," CARRS-Q researcher Wanda Griffin said.

"For many potential cyclists, these perceived risks are a big reason why they don't ride.

"Being able to better understand the factors influencing these perceived risks means being able to counter them and get more people riding bikes and reaping the health benefits."

RACQ Manager Motoring Advice Joel Tucker said both motorists and cyclists were afforded equal rights on the road.

"Under the road rules, bicycle riders and motor vehicle drivers have basically the same rules they must follow and everyone must share the road safely," Mr Tucker said.

"Roads were built for people, whatever mode of transport people choose to use, to get from A to B.

"It's about the person on the bike, the person in the car and remembering the other person has family and friends and is out there doing the same as you – trying to get around safely."

RACQ cycling safety tips

  • Riders should brush up on road safety and related road rules if they're new to cycling or have not ridden for a while.
  • Always wear an approved cycling helmet and bright clothing. Use lights if riding late in the afternoon – being visible is critical to safety when riding on the road.
  • Drivers need to give cyclists a safe space when passing – a minimum distance of 1–1.5m depending on the speed, and sometimes much more. If it isn't safe to pass then hold back unit it is safe to do so.
  • Those new to riding should learn basic cycle maintenance such as making sure the brakes are adjusted properly, keeping tyre pressures at the correct levels, checking the lights, tyres for damage and that all the controls are working. These checks will keep the bike in optimum condition.

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The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.