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Fatalities report: bike riders forgotten in road safety

The total number of bike riders dying on Australian roads has remained stagnant for 20 years despite improvements to road safety, claims a new report into cycling fatalities released by Bicycle Network today.

Bicycle Network’s Bike Rider Fatality Report 1998-2017 found that while the total number of cyclist deaths fluctuates each year, the national annual average of 37 has barely changed in two decades.

However, the report notes that progress is being made when it comes to reducing fatalities for all other road uses, with 1,225 deaths recorded in 2017 – 17 per cent less than that 20-year average of 1,487.

The total number of fatalities of people who ride bikes recorded in 2017 was 38.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said that this report shows that more must be done to reduce the risk and protect people who ride bikes on Australian roads.

“Every person that dies while riding a bike is one too many. It is unacceptable that there has been no meaningful reduction in the number of bike rider fatalities in the past two decades,” said Mr Richards.

“It’s hard to see how we can reduce fatalities towards zero when we can barely reduce them by one. People who ride bikes will continue to die on our roads until urgent action is taken by all levels of government.”

The report also highlights that 83% of bike rider deaths involved another vehicle, and that these vehicles were usually travelling at speed. More than 95% of fatal crashes involved vehicles travelling on roads with speed limits of 50km/h or above.

Middle-aged men riding bikes were found to be over represented in cycling fatality data, with 87% of road deaths involving a male, aged 40-49.

To complement the report’s key findings, Bicycle Network provides 14 key recommendations to aim to reduce deaths for people who ride bikes on Australian roads.

“We need a safe systems approach that protects bike riders from motor traffic, reduces speed limits, educates and trains road users and fast-tracks improved vehicle technology. A fully integrated approach like this is the only way to significantly reduce fatalities.”

“Riding a bike is not an inherently unsafe activity – the odds of being involved in a crash are extremely low. But we must and can do more to ensure that anyone who goes out for a bike ride comes home,” added Mr Richards.

Bicycle Network’s report includes analysis of information from the ABS, BITRE, Census and in-house data from Bicycle Network’s 50,000 members. It does not establish who may have been at fault in an incident that caused a bike rider fatality.

The report and its 14 recommendations will be presented to federal and state government, as well as road safety authorities.

Key findings from Bicycle Network’s Bike Rider Fatality Report 1998-2017

  1. There were were 742 bike rider fatalities between 1998 and 2017 at an average of 37 a year
  2. The total number of bike rider deaths in 2017 was 38 – slightly above the annual average
  3. Virtually no progress has been made in reducing bike rider fatalities over the last 20 years, while total fatalities amongst other road user groups has been declining (-9.1%)
  4. People riding bikes are killed in crashes with other motor vehicles (83%), with trucks and buses posing a significant risk (24%)
  5. The higher the speed, the more likely the crash will be fatal with 95.2% of bike rider fatalities happening in speed zones of 50km/h or more
  6. New South Wales recorded the most bike rider fatalities, followed by Victoria and Queensland. The number of bike rider fatalities by state is typically relative to population, except in Queensland and South Australia where the proportion of fatalities compared to the proportion of population is greater
  7. Middle aged men are the most likely group to be killed while riding a bike
  8. More bike rider fatalities occur during peak hour in the warmer months.

Bicycle Network’s recommendations

  1. BITRE data be expanded to include details of the cause of the crash to help decision makers specifically address problem areas
  2. Conduct an urgent inquiry into why road safety fatality measures have been less successful for people riding bikes.
  3. The Federal Government to commission the ABS or an appropriate private operator to report on the number of people riding bikes at least every two years.
  4. Prioritise investment to accelerate the construction of separated, protected bike lanes on all roads with high numbers of people riding bikes, consistence with a Safe Systems approach.
  5. Introduce a package of uniform laws throughout Australia supporting bike riders including reverse onus of proof (drivers must prove they weren’t at fault) and minimum passing distance laws.
  6. Introduce mandatory equipment and design standards on all new trucks from 1 July 2018 and all trucks from 1 July 2025 that include:
    • Blind spot reduction designs including lowering the driver cab, more windows and mirrors and reconfiguring passenger and driver doors
    • Driver assist technology that takes out human error such as left-turn warning systems, brake assist and lane-keep should also be prioritised for all motor vehicles, not just trucks
    • Side under-run protection rails.
  7. Vulnerable road user training be provided for all drivers of heavy vehicles.
  8. Make a rideable shoulder (including a buffer and clearance to the barrier) compulsory on high-speed roads of 80km/h+
  9. Accelerate the introduction of speed limits as low as 30km/h in high density and build up, urban areas.
  10. Introduce a how to reduce your risks while riding program targeted at middle aged men.
  11. Legalise footpath riding in Victoria and New South Wales.
  12. Introduce an Australia-wide behaviour change program aimed at reducing the number of motor vehicles during peak hours and increasing the number of bike riders.
  13. Abolish the fringe benefit tax exemption for private vehicles and business car parking
    Extend the fringe benefit tax exemption to private bicycle and ebike use.

Download report