I like cycling, but…

I love the concept of commuter cycling. While my trip to work is a little too far, I love the idea of riding to places like my sister’s house or my mum’s house or my dad’s place (all just a few km away) on the bike.

I love the idea of taking the whole family out for a ride, and as oil prices continue to climb, seeing lots of other people taking up cycling too. If it happens in a big way, the roads could be less busy, the air less polluted, and people would be fitter.

And then I see reports like this: some moron in a car deciding he doesn’t like being delayed by a group of cyclists, deliberately intimidating them, and then causing an accident before driving off.

There’s just no getting around the fact that you’re vulnerable on a bike. And one dickhead who doesn’t like the look of you can wipe you out in a second.

Transport fatalities per 100 million km

Call me a wimp if you like, but while I do enjoy recreational cycling, I continue to prefer — most of the time — walking, PT and, when I have to, driving.

Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Figures also included pedestrian fatalities, but I figure that’s skewed as pedestrian trips are almost always much shorter than those by mechanical transport. Be nice to find some more up-to-date Australian figures, too — these are from the 80s. My Googling didn’t find anything better.

Update 8am Friday: James makes a good point — wouldn’t per travelling hour be a fairer comparison? Yep, here it is. Note cycling is about as safe as car driving in these terms.

Transport fatalities per million travelling hours

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13 thoughts on “I like cycling, but…

  1. I’m lucky I live in a somewhat cycling-friendly country (Japan). So many people ride bicycles here there’s some protection in numbers. However, this does not mean that cyclists aren’t subject to dangers – but it’s often from other cyclists!

    People ride the wrong way along dual carriageways, ride without bicycle lights after dark, and often use their cell phones, smoke cigarettes or carry open umbrellas as they ride (I have seen cyclists doing all three at once – the bicycle trifecta, so to speak). Helmets are not mandatory either.

    Nevertheless, I can ride a ‘mama’s bicycle’ with a basket on the front (perefect for shopping) without getting stares or catcalls. We also have wonderful underground bicycle parking centers at Y50 (about 50 cents) per day to stow your bike securely.

    Bicycle road sense could be increased here though!

  2. Wouldn’t 100 million km on a bike take an awful lot longer than a car?

    I wonder what the graph would look like if it was fatalities per 100 million travelling hours?

  3. Whilst I don’t disagree, as a driver (often with young children in the car) I get so frustrated with how *some* cyclists behave. Like riding side by side in a bike lane so that they are over in the road lane, forcing me into oncoming traffic to pass them. Of course I could wait, but it’s not always practical to drive at 30k an hour with traffic backing up behind you.

    We live near Beach Rd, and see a lot of it.

    Aside from that I would LOVE to ride places, but honestly I would not feel safe on the road…so would probably get fined for riding on the footpath!

  4. I’m puzzled as to how they generate those graphs. Car and truck volumes are readily available and can be used to create crash rates for those vehicles, but motorcycle volumes are not kept by road authorities in Australia. Certainly in Victoria, VicRoads has no idea how many motorcycles and bicycles are on the road (apart from relying on registration and licence figures for motorcycles) or how far they travel. So I doubt the reliability of anything claiming to have crash rates for those modes of transport.

    What I would suggest, however, is that as the number of cyclists and motorcyclists increases relative to the number of cars in the traffic, the risk could reduce due to motorists being forced to take more notice of other vehicles.

  5. Stitch Sista: Ah, well, Beach Rd, what do you expect! BTW, adults can legally ride on the footpath if they are accompanying children under 12.

    Philip: Maybe it’s educated guesswork, a bit like the calculations of fare evasion, which purport to tell us how much revenue is lost, including all those people who never get caught.

  6. More road sense from cyclists and more manners from drivers would see a huge boom in cyclist numbers.
    I’d love to cycle again but I’m as lethal behind the handle bars as I am behind a steering wheel :P

  7. Lucky us! We have this moronic road cult called the RACV who believe that the a growth in car usage is synonymous with bike patronage. Then again, Bicycle Victoria, as I demonstrated on my blog, is funded by the RACV so don’t expect any protests from them.

  8. I have been riding a bit since selling the car however I don’t enjoy riding on the roads at all. If riding to work I well take an extra 3 K along the river rather than ride along Bridge Road Richmond.

    Meanwhile Daniel I’m happy about the new train layouts but I think they should have done a Japan and had single inward facing bench seats along the sides of carriages. You’d get almost as many people sitting as the proposed change and a lot more people standing.

  9. Some cities are better than others for cycling. One thing is for sure though – the number of cyclists, both recreational and commuting is not going to decrease from here on in. I hear my neighbours and friends complain about cyclists all the time and have to bite my tongue. A lot of motorists will cut you some slack, but some will go out of their way to make life difficult or dangerous. I can only imagine they are trying to demonstrate to me that I am not safe on the road…
    A lot of drivers seem to believe they have to pass a cyclist or cyclists in front of them at all costs (and the costs can be quite high) but for what? Almost always for the sake of waitng at the lights for another 30 seconds, where the same cyclist/s is almost certainly going to overtake you again!

  10. Now that I’m dealing with having a motorbike rider in the family (namely my other half) I have grown accustomed to hearing all about motorbike accidents and fatalities though I personally don’t think there are that many as that graph suggests.

    Hendo: I pass cyclists mostly because I am constantly afraid they might wobble off balance and I end up hitting them. It gives me the heebeejeebees watching cyclists on Racecourse Road in North Melbourne. That’s one road where riding on the footpath should be encouraged.

  11. “I pass cyclists mostly because I am constantly afraid they might wobble off balance and I end up hitting them.”
    Do you mean they might fall off in front of you and then you will run over them? It doesn’t make sense that you pass them because you don’t like passing them … does it? If a cyclist wobbles out into the path of an oncoming car – that is clearly their fault, the motorist isn’t to blame. Most of us are very, very aware of you behind us. If we are out slightly from a line of parked cars it is becuase we want to be able to follow a constant line for your sake, even if someone decides to open a door or step out onto the road in front of us.
    I cycle down a hill near my place that ends in a roundabout. It’s quite steep and I am going at 50km per hour – which is the speed limit here in Perth. About 50% of the time someone will overtake me on this stretch, pull in just before the roundabout doing – oh – probably 70 and then realise they are going to have to stop to give way or just hit the brakes so that they can go around theroundabout at a comfortable speed. That leaves me grabbing a handful of brake lever and leaving a strip of rubber behind me on the road. Mostly I don’t think they even realise that it is dangerous or unecessary. I have run into one driver doing this – fortunately on my mountain bike. He drove away despite hearing the impact.

  12. Interesting that the numbers (per travelling hour) are about the same for bikes and cars. Imagine if a fraction of the money spent on making roads safe for cars was allocated to making them safe for bikes too (eg. Copenhagen lanes, enforcement of road laws for cyclists, car driver education, etc. etc.).

    Of course, the standout is motorcycles. Holy crap!

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