Tuesday 28 January 2014

The facts about cyclist deaths on Australia's roads

Summary: Reports on cycling deaths and serious injuries rarely provide analysis on the who, how, when and why. Instead, simplistic, aggregate statistics are often used to imply that all cycling in all areas for all purposes is becoming even more dangerous in terms of fatalities. In reality, urban cycling for transport is generally getting safer on the popular cycling transport routes in Australia's cities. While sport cycling and cycling on regional roads appears to be contributing an outsized proportion of the fatalities and serious injuries, particularly those not involving other vehicles. This post will collate facts about cycling deaths in order to better inform urban cyclists, who simply ride for transport, of the actual risks and circumstances of cycling fatalities in Australia.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Todd Huffman

1. The Australian media almost always confuses sport and utility cycling or ignores the differences
- For example: > Regulate bicycles off the road by Michael Pascoe uses the spike in cycling fatalities in NSW to argue that cycling on the road is always a dangerous sport and should be tightly regulated (specific areas, specific times) to enforce safety. He asks cyclists to simply accept "the terrible truth that theirs is a dangerous sport and will remain so, even without motorists." Clearly, Michael has simply ignored cycling for transport and focused purely on cycling for sport and recreation. By doing so, his article contains many self-evident falsehoods and his suggestion is obviously flawed.

2. Sport/recreation cyclists riding road bikes at higher speeds and with higher risks are more likely to be killed or seriously injured
- However, let's narrow the focus to what was on Michael's mind: a spike in cycling deaths in NSW, most of which involved sport/recreational cyclists on road bikes and some where cyclist error caused the crash or where other vehicles weren't even involved. The most notable being Casey Kinniard who, while practising for a triathalon, lost control when coming down a hill at high speed, crossed to the wrong side of the road and hit a car head on.

- Surprisingly, Michael was actually onto something interesting, though his click-bait article heading and careless generalisations ensured it was lost from view. The interesting aspect is that sporting/recreational road bike cyclists, who are typically riding at higher speeds and taking more risks, are making up a much higher proportion of recent fatalities and serious injuries relative to their exposure (number of cyclists, trips). These cyclists also tend to be on roads with higher speed limits, more hills, more blind corners, faster moving cars and less separation of bikes from cars (such as via bike lanes).

- It's common sense that riding fast with your head down and taking more risks on a racing bike might lead to a much greater chance of being involved in a serious crash. That is why in the Netherlands, cyclists wearing helmets are 30 times more likely to end up in hospital. Virtually the only cyclists wearing helmets are people riding fast for sport/recreation - they choose to wear a helmet for those trips because of the much higher risk of crashing compared to their normal cycling for transport which has an extremely low risk of serious injury or death. See: Who are all these self-harming Dutch helmet wearers?

- Statistical research bears out that recreational cyclists riding at higher speeds are more at risk of serious injuries:
"Serious cyclist casualties are more common among middle-aged males; cycling in urban areas on main roads or highways with speed limits less than 70 km/h; at intersections; on weekdays; during daylight hours (Watson and Cameron 2006; Boufous et al 2010b)."
Dr Jan Garrard: Reducing serious injuries among cyclists and pedestrians
"Institute of Transport Studies research fellow Marilyn Johnson said higher injury rates were partially due to an increased popularity and a dramatic jump in recreational cycling among the 40-59 age group. ''More and more people are riding to work, but there has been a huge increase in people hopping on a road bike and riding longer distances,'' Dr Johnson said."
Middle age: cyclists' years of living dangerously
Middle age: cyclists' years of living dangerously

3. Overall Australian cycling fatality rates
- The overall number of deaths did jump to 50 in 2013 from 33 in 2012 - which has rightly caused alarm (it is the highest since 1997). However, contrary to some alarming media reports, there is no significant 5 year trend in fatalities based on the national figures.

- 11 of the 50 deaths were classified as single vehicle incidents. In other words, the cyclist crashed without any involvement with another vehicle. See: Australian Transport Safety Bureau - Fatalities database

Business Insider: Australian Bike-related deaths

- More recent and long-term analysis of Australia-wide fatalities from 1998 to 2014 does show a general downward trend in multiple vehicle (e.g. cyclist and motor vehicle) fatalities, while a slight upward trend in single vehicle (cyclist only) fatalities.

Recent trends in cyclist fatalities in Australia (Boufous, Olivier)

- Alan Davies explores these numbers further here: Why is the number of cycling fatalities falling?
A new paper on road fatalities in Australia shows that the number of cyclists who died in crashes declined over 1991-2013 at an average rate of 1.9% per year. Although the downward trend is not as fast as it is for car and pedestrian fatalities, it’s nevertheless a distinct improvement and goes against the popular wisdom (e.g. see Is the risk of getting killed while cycling on roads increasing?). It’s all the more remarkable because exposure – particularly the number of cyclists – increased over the period.
4. Specific details of Australian cycling fatalities since Jan 2013
- I haven't been able to find a single, comprehensive source with these details (if you know of one, please let me know) so I will collate the specific cases as I find them. Please note I am listing these brief details so that those interested can look into specifics in order to make better-informed decisions, including about actual risk factors and their own safety. The table below is not an analysis of the crashes and only relays information gleaned from media articles and this publication: Amy Gillett - Minimum Overtaking Distance rationale

- Official cyclist fatality statistics are sourced from: Australian Dept. of Infrastructure and Regional Development  - Road Death Statistics

Date / Name / PlaceCyclist Type / BikeCircumstances of Fatality (please provide corrections or accurate links)

Jan 2014 / 50yr man / Kalorama (VIC)Sports / Road Bike- A Toyota Hilux was pulling out of a private driveway around 10.30am when it collided with two male cyclists travelling north on Mt Dandenong Tourist Road (News1)
Jan 2014 / Casey Kinnaird / Waterfall (NSW)Sports / Road Bike- Training. On fast hill descent lost control round corner, crossed to wrong side of road and collided head on with car (News1, News2)
Dec 2013
- 4 other deaths. QLD (2), WA (2).
Dec 2013 / Kathleen Heraghty / Lower Inman Valley (SA)Sports / Road Bike- Training. Car hit her from behind. (News1)
Dec 2013 / Lewis Hendey / West Tamar Highway, Launceston (TAS)
- Training. Hit from behind by ute on highway. (News1News2News3)
Nov 2013
- 2 other deaths. QLD (1).
Nov 2013 / 74yr man / Scarborough (QLD)
- Hit by a four-wheel-drive while riding along Bird of Passage Parade. (News1)
Nov 2013 / 40yr woman / St Peters (NSW)
- Truck collision at corner of Talbot Street and Princes Highway. (News1)
Nov 2013 / Matthew Fitzgerald / Kurnell (NSW)Sports / Road Bike- Struck a rock while his group overtook another cycling group and fell and hit head. (News1)
Nov 2013 / Julian Paul / East Brighton (VIC)
- Hit by Honda Jazz at 9:30pm near Union St. (News1, News2)
Oct 2013
- 1 other death. WA (1).
Oct 2013 / Elderly man / Goolwa North (SA)
- Elderly cyclist who collapsed and died while riding at Goolwa North. Not counted. (News1)
Oct 2013 / 64yr man, Rosewood Rd (QLD)
- Initial reports indicate the ute struck the
cyclist from behind around 4:50pm. (News1)
Oct 2013 / 41yr man / Bibra Lake (WA)
- At 8pm, after making a right turn into Stock Road he was struck from behind. (News1)
Oct 2013 / Paulo Froes / Turramurra (NSW)Sports / Road Bike- Fast descent round corner, clipped the rear of a vehicle as he took evasive action to avoid it; lost
control and slid under an oncoming vehicle on the other side of the road.
Oct 2013 / Michelle Smeaton / Carindale (QLD)
- Hit by stabilising leg of truck passing her. (News1)
Oct 2013 / 81yr man / Modbury Heights (SA)
- The 81 year old male bicycle rider was struck at the intersection of McIntyre Rd and Golden Way. (News1)
Oct 2013 / Man / Yan Yean (VIC)
- Struck from behind by a Toyota car. Donnybrook rd. (News1)
Oct 2013 / Lin Ya-Ruo  / Lasseter Hwy (NT)Long Distance- Struck by a tour bus while riding at night on Lasseter Hwy, near the Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse, 250km south west of Alice Springs. (News1, Blog1)
Sept 2013 / Man / Tallebudgera (QLD)
- Riding down a steep hill, failed to negotiate a bend and ended in a ditch. (News1)
Sept 2013 / Myles Sparling / Kallangur (QLD)Recreation / Kids Bike- The family was crossing Narangba Road at a set of traffic lights when a tip truck suddenly rounded the corner and ran over Myles. (News1, News2)
Aug 2013
- 1 other death. NSW (1).
Aug 2013 / Dubbo man / Wallsend (NSW)Sports / Road Bike- Training. Hit from behind by a truck. (News1, News2)
Aug 2013 / Les Karayan / Dutton Park (QLD)Sports / Road Bike- Training. Truck hit bridge, rolled over and crushed cyclist. Annerly Rd. (News1)
Aug 2013 / 70yr man / Wynard (TAS)
- Preolenna Rd, Moorleah. No car involved. (News1)
Aug 2013 / Craig Saunders / Huonville (TAS)
- Craig was struck from behind by a utility and killed. (News1)
July 2013 / Dan Krause / Leawood Gardens (SA)Sports / Road Bike- Training ride. Riding solo along Mt Barker Rd when he slipped and fell going round bend in wet conditions. (News1)
July 2013 / Milton Stephen / Manly (NSW)
- 76yr old riding along Darley Road lost control of his bicycle and fell heavily onto the road. Accident was in Jan. (News1)
June 2013 / Sue Bell / Townsville (QLD)Sports / Road Bike- Sue was killed while riding with friends when the driver of a truck attempted to overtake them and struck the riders. (News1)
June 2013 / Maria Defino / Pagewood (NSW)Transport - Struck by car from behind as riding around boat parked on street. (News1)
June 2013 / man / Mountain Highway, The Basin (VIC)
- Struck on roundabout by a 4WD. (News1)
June 2013 / 11yr boy / Nollamara (WA)
- Boy was riding his pushbike on the footpath when he was struck by a car which was being driven out of a driveway on Ravenswood Drive. (News1)
June 2013, Man, Fullarton (SA)
- Knocked over and run over by a truck turning left. (News1)
May 2013 / Ebenezer Nur / Corio (VIC)Transport / Kids bike- Ebenezer Nur was riding his bike to school when he was struck by a bus on a pedestrian crossing. He had a red signal. (News1, News2)
May 2013 / Tanya Roneberg / Cairns (QLD)Sport / Road bike- Training ride 7am. She was struck from behind by a utility vehicle. (News1, Blog1)
May 2013 / Woman / Redcliffe (NT)Transport / Utility bike- Hit from behind by 4WD at 6:15am. Likely on way to work. (News1)
May 2013 / Roger Hill / Cottesloe (WA)
- Bike collided with a gold BMW sedan at the Broome Street and Eric Street roundabout. (News1)
Mar 2013
- 2 other deaths. NSW (2).
Mar 2013 / Brendan Lynch / Beveridge (VIC)Recreation / Road bike- Riding from Benalla to Melbourne, after 150km was hit by a bus and killed on Hume highway (News1)
Mar 2013 / 39yr male / Broadmeadow (NSW)
- Riding east along Lambton Rd attempting to make right hand turn into Lang St when he was struck by an oncoming Hyundai Excel (News1)
Feb 2013
- 2 other deaths. NSW (1), QLD (1).
Feb 2013 / 51yr man / Toronto (NSW)
- Came off bike on cycleway. Not counted in official stats. (News1)
Feb 2013 / Jared Dunscombe / Corio (VIC)Recreation-  Fell from his bike and was hit by a passing truck towing a trailer. (News1)
Feb 2013 / Marc Simone / Emu Plains (NSW)Sports / ?- Training. Riding in eastbound lane of the M4 motorway; Jeep Cherokee collided with him (News1, News2)
Feb 2013 / 61yr man / Cowan (NSW)Recreation- Recreation ride. Passed by motorbikes. No known contact but fell and hit head. (Forum1)
Jan 2013
- 2 other deaths. NSW (1), TAS (1).
Jan 2013 / Elderly man / Riverton (SA)
- Cycling on Main North rd when car collided with him. (News1)
Jan 2013 / Finnish man / Narabeen (NSW)
- May been travelling down the wrong side of the steep and winding road. Crashed with car at blind corner. (News1, News2)
Jan 2013 / 19yr man / Strathpine (QLD)
- Struck by a truck from behind (News1, AGF1)

5. Sports cycling injuries or fatalities and Mandatory Helmet Laws
- There is a big difference in the risk of crashing and hitting your head between sports cycling and mainstream, urban cycling for transport. This leads many sports cyclists - who ride at fast speeds and have had, seen or heard about serious crashes involving heads - to support Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL) as they genuinely feel helmets are vital. What they miss is the connection between the type of cycling and the risk of serious crashes and hitting your head.

- The problem, in countries like Australia, is that many people primarily cycle only for sports/recreation rather than also being regular users of bikes for getting around their city. Consequently, they don't have sufficient perspective on how safe urban cycling can be compared to fast, high-risk sports cycling. In the Netherlands, all of the sports cyclists (on their racing or mountain bikes) also use utility bikes for transport and see the two activities as completely different and act accordingly. See: Who are all these self-harming Dutch helmet wearers?

- Medical professionals and researchers in Australia and New Zealand who support MHL also make this mistake and don't differentiate between the two, simply referring to the cyclists who regularly turn up in their hospitals with serious injuries while ignoring what type of cyclists they are (the colourful lycra not being obvious enough).

- If you want to help get rid of Australia and New Zealand's Mandatory Helmet Laws, you can take action here: > Freestyle Cyclists. Also see: > When should urban cyclists wear a helmet?

Further Info:
The Guardian: Cycling accidents rising in Australia

Death spike: why cyclists are dying twice as fast on our roads

Australian Dept. of Infrastructure and Regional Development  - Road Death Statistics

Road Deaths – December 2013 (Cycle Police blog)

Dr Jan Garrard: Reducing serious injuries among cyclists and pedestrians (PDF)

Is it drivers killing cyclists, or politicians?

Witch on a bicycle - worldwide cycling accident reports

Victorian Annual Road Toll Statistics

Wheels of Justice

ABC News
Rising road toll: Cyclists accuse police of going soft on dangerous drivers

Amy Gillett Foundation - Cycling and Motorist Incident Research

ATSB Deaths of cyclists due to road crashes (2006)

Amy Gillett - Minimum Overtaking Distance rationale
- Contains details on 2013 cycling deaths

How many of the exact same freak accidents are needed?

UK Cycling Safety Advice and Information (ROSPA)

Cycling Forums - Is road cycling dangerous?

Bicycle Network Forums
Cyclists we've lost - RIP

Crikey: The Urbanist
Why is the number of cycling fatalities falling?
Is the risk of getting killed while cycling on roads increasing?
Are cyclists ‘mere obstacles’ to motorists?
Is cycling more dangerous than driving?
Does cycling on roads put your health at risk?