The safety of vulnerable road users on two wheels is becoming a hot topic in the media.
Blame is directed at different groups of road users and tempers are rising on our congested roads. And the problem is going to get worse with more cars on the roads of our rapidly growing cities and more people discovering the bicycle as a convenient and fast mode of transport. Building more roads for cars or adding extra lanes to clogged free ways is only a short term fix at best. It will not cure decades of lack of investment in upgrading public transport and off and on-road bicycle paths. These alternative modes of transportation will no doubt rise in importance when in the near future petrol prices rise as a result of decreasing oil reserves and also us having to constrain our carbon emissions to avoid the world boiling over.
On January 3, 2010 the Full Montes Bicycle Club, of which I am a member, participated in Amy's ride Victoria 2010.
Amy Gillette was a member of the national road racing cycling team that died in a training accident on the roads of Germany in July 2005. Amy was killed by a motorist that ploughed into the squad. The accident also left a number of severely injured bike riders.
The message from those of us who are participating in the ride is for motorists to remember to provide enough space on the road for cyclists. Recent research from Federal Department of Transport revealed that in 2005-06 4,370 cyclists were seriously injured on our roads. The proportion of these accidents that involved cars was large - about 1,500 accidents. The accuracy of these figures has been challenged in a recent radio program on Radio National which found that the official reported figures are only the tip of the iceberg.
Many of the accidents where cars and bikes are involved are due to motorists not providing enough space on the road for cyclists.
Some high profile cyclists who are riding professionally on roads all over the world like Cadel Evans, the reigning World Road Racing Champion, are on the record saying that “the worst places for road cyclists are in the land downunder and in America because of the attitude of motorists against cyclists”.
I believe that the design of our roads is partly to blame for these accidents, with our roads generally not being designed for the commuter bicyclists. Another factor is the “cult of the motor car” that is spread in the media. This message is further amplified by State Governments that until recently were spruiking Australian made large cars driving on roads designed with the safety of the motor car in mind while neglecting to provide safe and convenient road infrastructure for bike riders.
There is some sobering statistical and reliable anecdotal evidence to support this supposition.
First, the NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust just recently released a report that challenged the official reporting of bike accidents. The number of reported bike accidents was only 2 per cent of the actual number of accidents it was found. The accidents reported tended to be the more severe accidents some with fatal outcomes; however, 98 per cent of accidents went unreported. The serious consequence of this is that there are none of the urgently needed education campaigns for motorists and the further upgrading of bike ways remains undone.
Another interesting statistic was that 40 to 49-year-old white collar workers were over represented in the true bike accident statistic which has the largest economical impact on society.
Finally, the ACT figures revealed that bike crashes actually account for 10-20 per cent of all road trauma injuries in terms of hospital bed days. As a comparison the car drivers involved in crashes were responsible for less than 10 per cent of hospital bed days.
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