This should surprise no one who’s cycled in cities where cycling on the streets is prevalent:
It seems paradoxical but the more people ride bicycles on our city streets, the less likely they are to be injured in traffic accidents, say injury experts who will speak at a forthcoming cycling safety seminar in Sydney.
Local and international research reveals that as cycling participation increases, a cyclist is far less likely to collide with a motor vehicle or suffer injury and death – and what’s true for cyclists is also true for pedestrians. And it’s not simply because there are fewer cars on the roads, but because motorists seem to change their behaviour and drive more safely when they see more cyclists and pedestrians around.
Studies in many countries have shown consistently that the number of motorists colliding with walkers or cyclists doesn’t increase equally with the number of people walking or bicycling. For example, a community that doubles its cycling numbers can expect a one-third drop in the per-cyclist frequency of a crash with a motor vehicle.
“It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW who address the seminar on September 5. “The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.”
Experts say the effect is independent of improvements in cycling-friendly laws such as lower speed limits and better infrastructure, such as bike paths. Research has revealed the safety-in-numbers impact for cyclists in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 European countries and 68 Californian cities.