Cycling safety

Having had friends suffer some horrific injuries while cycling, I’ve been reluctant to buy a bike for use around Wellington, as we have so few cycle lanes and pretty narrow roads.

You shudder when you read reports of collisions between vehicles and bikes, because the vehicle driver merely gets a nasty shock while the cyclist can get broken bones, maimed or killed.

But some cyclists can do more to be safer. The Herald reports:

Cyclists accounted for 60 per cent of red-light runners surveyed at four Auckland intersections, the city’s transport authority has revealed.

Car drivers were responsible for 37 per cent of 360 red-light breaches observed by Auckland Transport, and buses, trucks and one motorcycle made up the balance.

The survey was taken nine months ago, and used by Auckland Transport to formulate safety messages aimed at encouraging all road users to obey red lights, but was not publicised at the time.

Cyclists are 2% of road users so making up 60% of red light runners is a massive over-representation.

She referred to a presentation by a senior Auckland Transport official which won an accolade at an engineering conference, noting many instances of red-light running by cyclists were left-hand turns or motivated by riders wanting to get a head-start on other vehicles for safety reasons.

“Overall, cyclists’ red-light running is a relatively infrequent and safe behaviour,” corridor and centre plans team leader Daniel Newcombe said in the presentation.

Among recommendations he made to the Institution of Professional Engineers’ transport group conference was for cyclists to be allowed to turn left on red lights, while treating the manoeuvre as a “give way” and assessing the risk to pedestrians.

The trouble with doing that is noted here:

Police believe John Tangiia, 37, was probably freewheeling down Parnell Rise on Tuesday before turning left into Stanley St and colliding with a truck which appeared to have a green light while crossing the intersection from The Strand.

Personally I think turn left on red if safe is worth investigating as a law change for all road users, not just cyclists.

Despite the concern about last week’s death, which remains under police investigation, he noted a 64 per cent reduction in serious cycling injuries in Auckland in 2012 compared with 2011 – from 51 to 18.

Always good to have some hard data. Wellington had 33 serious injuries which reinforces to me how cycle unfriendly most of Wellington is.

The Ministry of Transport has some interesting data on cycling injuries. In terms of Police reported crashes with injuries the numbers have been basically declining from a recent high of 895 in 2008 to 783 in 2011. The low point was 559 in 2000 and it increased most of the eight years in between. If we go further back it was 1054 in 1990 and declines for ten years in a row until 2000.

Of course the better data would be number of injuries per x hours spent cycling.

MOT reports that cyclists had fault in just 37% of crashes and primary fault in just 23%.

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