A new study has confirmed that half of the bike injuries on the road come from crashes that involve just one vehicle: your bike.
Most riders—naturally—fear motor traffic, and it is collisions with cars and trucks which get the most attention in plans to make our rides safer.
Motor vehicles have considerable mass, and with the speed they travel there is massive kinetic energy available to crunch a person on a bike. We are wise to be wary of them.
But the new study, using an in-depth crash investigation technique, suggests that the injuries caused by single bike collisions are an under-recognised problem.
It found that there were a range crash types, and that a range of countermeasures were needed.
The study was undertaken by a team including researchers from the Alfred Hospital, and the Universities of Melbourne, Monash, New South Wales and Swansea.
Recruited cyclists were interviewed with questions about demographic details, the crash circumstances, and risk factors and grouped into five categories: loss-of-control (including sudden braking events to avoid another vehicle and loss of control events in either dry or wet/slippery conditions), interaction with tram tracks, struck object/pothole, bicycle mechanical issue or other.
About 48 per cent of all the crashes involved a single bicycle, commonly experienced male riders with more than 10 years of experience who rode more than three times a week.
Most crashes occurred during daylight hours in clear weather conditions.
Thirty-seven per cent were classified as loss-of-control events, 19% resulted from interaction with tram tracks (the study was conducted in Melbourne), 13% resulted from striking a pothole or object, 10% resulted from mechanical issues with the bicycle and 21% were classified as other events.
According to the study: "Loss-of-control events commonly occurred due to sudden braking to avoid another vehicle or cyclist, losing control on a dry descent or losing control in wet/slippery conditions.
"Interaction with tram tracks commonly occurred when a cyclist was turning right across tram tracks or when a cyclist was avoiding parking or parked cars on the kerbside.
"Mechanical issues that contributed to crashes included wheel failures, snapped chains and gearing issues."
"There were two single-cyclist only crashes that occurred during race events and three that resulted from interactions with animals (one kangaroo, one wallaby and an Australian magpie).”
The revelation that mechanical issues were implicated in 10% of the single bike crashes is noteworthy given the recent finding of the Victorian Coroner Audrey Jamieson that the safety risks of older and previously damaged bikes need critical scrutiny.
"Mechanical failures were reported in six cases and included wheel failures, snapped chains and gearing issues. Regular bicycle maintenance is recommended to reduce the risk of mechanical failure,” the study reports.