The commonwealth government has released a new road safety action plan for the next two years. Bike riders will benefit, if the plan ever sees any action.
However, the direction is a positive one, with strong focus on speed reductions, truck safety and technology.
As the Australian states and commonwealth have consolidated their road safety strategies around the Safe Systems approach in recent years, protection of vulnerable road users has moved up the agenda.
But when it comes to action plans, where some states and the commonwealth are concerned, the word “action” should be in inverted commas.
This may be about to change.
A key action is the reduction in speed limits to 40 km/h or lower in high use bike and pedestrian zones, and to 30 km/h in high-risk bike and pedestrian zones.
“There is risk for vulnerable road users even at low speeds, but it is clear that the chance of injury or death increases dramatically above certain speed thresholds,” the action plan says.
"There is a large increase in deaths for collision speeds above around 30 km/h, while the critical speed of impact for serious injury and for particularly vulnerable road users is likely to be less than this."
"The solutions include lower speed environments; separation of pedestrians and cyclists from other road users; and provision of appropriate crossing facilities. Solutions also lie in improved vehicle design and technology, road user education, training and enforcement.”
Another action in the plan calls for improved intersection designs, including raised platforms, bike separation, and right hand turn bans.
The plan also points to new technologies such as autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping, and mobile device distraction avoidance. There is no mention of the latest bike detection technologies that are already being fitted to some vehicles.
A major breakthrough is the adoption of the Victorian Melbourne Metro Tunnel initiative to require contractors on government-funded construction projects to improve the safety of vulnerable road users around heavy vehicles through safety technology and education programs.
"In urban areas, heavy vehicles feature prominently in crashes causing deaths and serious injuries to vulnerable road users. There is a large amount of major infrastructure construction currently underway or planned across Australia. As much of this increased activity is in city and suburban areas, it brings increased risk to vulnerable road users,” the document says.
“Governments will investigate options to require improved heavy vehicle safety standards through their construction contracts, informed by the results of current trials in Victoria and NSW involving increased driver training requirements and fitting improved safety equipment to heavy vehicles used on major projects.
“As part of this work there are also opportunities to improve awareness of risk among both heavy vehicle drivers and vulnerable road users.”