Rising cyclist death toll is mainly due to drivers...

...so change the road laws and culture.

The Conversation, 18 September 2018

“Recent reporting paints a picture of surging road deaths and failing safety strategies for cyclists. The Australian Automobile Association’s Benchmarking report records 1,222 road deaths in the year ending June 2018. And cyclist deaths in particular remain stubbornly high, even as average speeds, which affect road deaths, continue to decline.

If cars are much safer than 25 years ago, why are cyclist deaths increasing, from 25 the previous year to 45 this past year? Of the untimely road deaths the AAA reports, 1,100 are due to how drivers were driving.

In Australia, drivers are to blame for at least 79% of accidents with cyclists. And roughly 85% of reported cyclist casualty crashes involve another vehicle, not a bike or a pedestrian. Driver distraction accounts for roughly 25% of accidents.

These stats highlight a clear pattern of deadly harm: drivers hitting people, because of how they’re driving, is 90% of the problem on our roads.”

https://theconversation.com/rising-cyclist-death-toll-is-mainly-due...

 

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> drivers hitting people, because of how they’re driving, is 90% of the problem on our roads.

They tell me it is not a perfect panacea but as far as I am concerned Strict Liability Legislation!

I found their dismissal of infrastructure very disappointing: "Separation of transport modes can’t fix aggression and inattention. Indeed, separation contributes to irresponsibility by baking the assumption of danger and vulnerability into infrastructure. It works by diminishing the need for care and attention on the part of those responsible for the greatest harm: drivers." -- I would argue that the problems of aggression and inattention are impossible to fix completely (at least while humans drive cars) - even if 99.9% of drivers are attentive, there is still the 0.1% who are not. So it is imperative that infrastructure exists so that mistakes do not kill people, as far as possible.

Also, small point, cyclist deaths are not surging. 2017-2018 was a bad 12 months, but the long term numbers are fairly constant. I am glad that a bad year is being used to raise awareness, but the mathematician in me finds it annoying.

I guess I agree with you Peter with regard to infrastructure. However, this article frames causes and solutions in the shorter terms involved in measurement of injuries and driver behaviour change.

The reality is that the larger-scale 'cross city' bike infrastructure involved in 'separation' does often take time. I think the author overstates the issues of 'complexity' and 'funding difficulty, but the time issue is real - PortBUG, DPTI and the Councils involved have been working on the Outer Harbor Greenway for 13 years!

My own view is that a focus on separated infrastructure in all of its forms has - when everything is taken into account - a much more positive outcome that the authors acknowledge. It encourages more people to try walking and cycling, it assists transport access and equity (especially for children, older folk, people with disabilities and those without access to private or public motor transport) and it reduces the burden of health costs etc and it has a number of other 'bottom-line' +ve outcomes (including reduction of pollution and GGE).

I don't buy the authors' notion that separation strategies 'bake in' the belief that bikes are somehow intrinsically dangerous and at fault. Why can't we advocate for separated infrastructure and engage in an effective information strategy about need for better driver behaviour? The two are not incompatible. After all, everyone benefits from both strategies - it's not an 'us or them' war!

Incidentally, I'll fix the link so it goes to the original article rather than the STCWA report! 

It’s not just disappointing but nonsensical. It’s a simple matter of playing percentages – if I commute in peak hour on a busy road corridor, about 100-200 cars will drive or turn near me per day. If we somehow improved driving behaviour around cyclists 10 fold (a huge improvement!), and reduced risky encounters to 0.1 or 0.2% of the drivers passing or turning nearby, that’s still roughly one potential life threatening encounter per 500-1000 cars – roughly 1 per week. Over 25 years of daily commuting, that’s thousands of potentially fatal encounters.

Meanwhile for the cyclist commuting on a separated path (eg linear path), over the same 25 years they would experience none of that risk. *Not one* chance of being killed by an inattentive driver while on the path. Pedestrians & their off lead pets may very occasionally be a bit annoying, but you’d have to be spectacularly unlucky to be killed by one.

It doesn’t even have to be ‘fully separated’ infrastructure – building a network of side streets into safe, quiet and linked corridors will achieve much of that risk reduction. The fully separated pathways are just the icing on the cake.

I can’t see how driver attitudes could be changed quickly or enough with media campaigns & driver training to make a big difference – the resources thrown at reducing speeding over the past 30 years (and the punishments levied from drivers) hasn’t reduced vehicles speeding by anywhere near a factor of 10 in that time.

Ironically, one way to effect sizable change is to ensure everyone knows at least one or two regular cyclists in their circle of friends & family, so that non cyclists are more likely to mentally picture themselves or a loved one on the bike they are passing. And the way to achieve that level of participation that is with safe infrastructure!

> Ironically, one way to effect sizable change is to ensure everyone knows at least one or two regular cyclists in their circle of friends & family...

SIN I understand - Safety In Numbers, never quite thought of it that way though.

I pretty well agree with all of that, Mark. Infrastructure might take a while, but once it's there it's there. I'd say it's actually quicker and easier than trying to change attitudes (though of course I would like attitudes to improve too).

And as you are alluding to, at least on the Adelaide plains where it is flat, the infrastructure isn't too hard or too costly. 

Separated infrastructure is obviously safest for cyclists but budget realities will see Australian cyclists generally having to use roadways for the forseeable future. I'd be happy if driver behaviour could be improved by enforcing existing laws and with continued education.

The 1 and 1.5 metre passing rule is considered optional by many drivers who can be confident that they won't be prosecuted - I know it is difficult for police to prove the offence but I've also experienced disinterest from police who appeared disinclined to bother. Reliance on automated traffic control (cameras for speed and red light running) keeps the statistics up and brings in the money for the government. I don't blame police as I see the huge problems that they have to deal with using limited resources. The problem is that other road laws have less emphasis placed upon them when they are not enforced because they take time and are more difficult to prove.

I couldn't possibly report all the close passes I experience and would prefer that people be educated. I'd like to see an advertising campaign pointing out that if you can't pass a cyclist safely then you can't drive and should maybe catch the bus. The aggressive and selfish drivers in the minority who endanger my life need to have it pointed out that they are at fault and their driving is poor (because everyone else seems to be able to pass me safely) rather than the cyclist being considered at fault for being on the road.

Last weekend, having been passed ridiculously by a driver who clearly had no idea how close they were to me, I wondered if this is now part of the online perception test which newly qualified drivers need to undertake? If not, it really ought to be.

Otherwise, I'd be happy to put rubbish drivers in a chair in the gutter and pass them at a one metre distance at 60 kph in a car, just so they get a feel for how terrifying 500 mm is.

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