A growing pandemic, global warming, obesity, and an increasing road toll are just some of the challenges Australians are facing right now. Continued lockdowns and closures have given people a greater incentive to leave their cars at home and explore the outdoors, reducing vehicle emissions and promoting health and physical activity, but what does this mean for our roads? Increased cyclists and pedestrians.
While the uptake of non-motorist users on our roads provides benefits for both cyclists and pedestrians as well as a much-needed CO2 break for the environment, it brings into focus another element of road use: safety.
Between June 2019 and June 2020, 48 cyclists and 149 pedestrians lost their lives on Australian roads.
Alarmingly, the figure for cyclists reflected a 40 per cent increase in fatalities when compared to the previous 12 months. Even though the roads were relatively empty during the 2019-20 period due to lockdowns, risky driving increased during this period. So who is to blame for cyclist fatality?
According to the data, no one specific.
Figures show that while motorist behaviour can pose a major threat to cyclist safety, cyclists themselves must also exercise considerable caution on the roads.
More than a quarter of cyclists admit to riding without a helmet – a concerning statistic since it’s no secret that a lack of protective safety gear can lead to serious bodily harm, injury, or death in the event of a crash. As one of the five fatal factors, the others being speeding, distraction, fatigue or drink and drug driving, the Government has already imposed several laws to decrease cyclist death.
Across Australia, wearing a helmet is mandatory with on-the-spot fines ranging from around $25 in the Northern Territory and upwards of $300 in New South Wales. However, cyclists aren’t the only one encouraged to take safer measures…
In April 2021, Victoria became the last state to enforce the minimum passing distance law between motorists and cyclists on the road. While the penalties for not adhering to the law differs across states, the laws spell out that:
- At speed limits of 60km/h or less, motorists must leave a minimum clearance gap of one-metre between their vehicle and the cyclist before overtaking.
- At speed limits above 60km/h, motorists must leave at least a 1.5 metre gap when overtaking.
- Drivers and motorcyclists may briefly cross broken, solid, and double painted lines to adhere to the 1.5 metre rule, as long as there is a clear view ahead and it is safe to do so.
While the law’s introduction may see a reduction in cyclist fatalities in Victoria, having been established with good effect in other states and territories for a while now, it may not be enough to keep every cyclist safe.
As the uptake for cycling continues – with our very own capital territory Canberra now dubbed the number one cycling destination in the country and the 34th worldwide – road users may have to be more mindful of how they interact with one another on the roads.
Hybrid electric bikes, improved road infrastructure, and a growing health and environmentally conscious collective could very well see cycling help mitigate some of the health and environmental challenges Aussie’s face, but it should not come at the cost of lives.
If countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands or Amsterdam where there are more bikes than people, can actively foster a growing and popular cycling community, there’s no doubt that we can do it too.
To find out more about our programs click HERE.
Get involved in the conversation by following us on: