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A Research Overview

More work needed to keep cyclists safe- 1 October

October 7, 2015 0 Comments

Bus and cycle lanes may slightly reduce the risk of crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles, but they fail to adequately protect cyclists from the worst accident risk factors on our roads, new research shows. 

Lincoln University student Tom Williams recently completed a Master’s thesis that investigated how specific road characteristics contribute to where bicycle accidents occur.

The project involved using GIS modelling to identify where crashes were taking place in proportion to where people tended to cycle. This information was then combined with accident data from the NZ Transport Agency’s Crash Analysis System using a case-control methodology .

The research found that the risk of an accident significantly increased where there was more traffic. Intersections controlled by either roundabouts or the give way rules were also identified as dangerous locations for cyclists.

“Even though bus and cycle lanes do slightly reduce the likelihood of having an accident, the danger posed by high traffic volumes negates any benefits that these facilities have in areas with high traffic volumes,” Tom says.

He emphasises the importance of encouraging more people to ride bikes by minimising the risk of accidents.

“Cycling leads to better transport efficiency, as people riding bikes take up less space on the road compared to cars.

“It’s also better for people’s health because they’re burning fat rather than fuel, and it’s good for the environment, as riding a bike isn’t dependent on fossil fuels,” he says.

“However, until conditions are safer for cyclists, people will be reluctant to ride bikes.”

According to the Ministry of Transport, only 2 per cent of the New Zealand population cycles, but cycling accounts for 7 per cent of accidents on New Zealand roads.

“This is double the accident rate of motor vehicles,” Tom says.

He suggests that there needs to be more discussion about how we can protect cyclists at intersections and in locations with high traffic volumes.

“We need better road policies and more direction from central Government as to how we should be providing for people who choose to ride bikes,” he says.

“More consistent speed limits would be helpful, as a lot of different speed zones can be confusing.

“There also doesn’t seem to be enough of a regimented approach to accident prevention.

“Often, intersection improvements will occur after accidents happen, rather than better infrastructure being planned for to prevent accidents in the first place.”

Tom also suggests that intersections be modified to encourage drivers to be more attentive to cyclists.

“Street furniture can facilitate slower approach speeds, and perhaps some Give Way signs could be replaced with Stop signs.

“I think we also need to discuss whether Give Way rules are an effective way to control traffic at intersections.

“Given that you don’t have to stop at Give Way signs unless it’s absolutely necessary, perhaps this makes people speed through as quickly as possible, increasing accident risk.

“Ultimately, we need safety in numbers. When driving a car, the brain doesn’t register one or two cyclists on the road. However, research shows that as the number of people riding bicycles increases, drivers will become more attentive towards the presence and needs of people who ride bikes.

“For this to happen, we need to make conditions safer so more people will choose to ride a bike than take the car.” 

#Student work

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