Publication Type: Report
Source: Transfund, by Munster, D., Koorey, G., Walton, D., Opus International Consultants Ltd, Lower Hutt, p.48 (2001)
, cycle injury
, cycle safety
, New Zealand
, road safety
A survey was carried out in 2001, to identify the causes of cycle-only crashes on our public
roads, cycle ways and footpaths. Of particular interest was the role of road features in these
crashes. This report presents the findings of this survey.
Details including causes of cycle crashes involving a motor vehicle are reported in the Land
Transport Safety Authority’s (LTSA) crash analysis system. Cycle-only crashes (i.e. those
not involving impact with a motor vehicle) are excluded from this system. Hospital and
Accident Compensation (ACC) records distinguish cycle-only crashes from those involving
a motor vehicle, and from these records cycle-only crashes appeared to be twice as frequent
as cycle and motor vehicle crashes. However insufficient detail was available to determine
their causes. A 1989 study of cycle crashes in Christchurch found 20% were due to road
features, in particular to loose gravel and poor maintenance. These findings were to be
compared with those of our national survey of cyclist accidents occurring between 1999 and
The group surveyed were cyclists who had received either treatment for a cycle-only crash as
public hospital inpatients, or compensation from Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
for specialist treatment or other assistance. The survey was by questionnaire.
To examine factors related to on-road cycle-only crashes and, where these relate to road
features, to identify the feature and its role in causing crashes.
Primary crash cause:
In the study most cyclists (33%) attributed the primary crash cause to their own actions, and
road features were attributed as the second greatest cause (by 28% of cyclists), 16% to a
cycle problem, 11% to another person (mainly a cyclist), and 7% to avoiding (but not hitting)
someone or something moving. Younger cyclists (below 15 years) tended to blame
themselves rather than road features for their crash, compared to older cyclists. This may be
reticence by the younger cyclist in identifying road features as causes, or it may reflect their
Road features identified as crash causes:
Of the road features identified as crash causes, loose gravel caused the single greatest
number of crashes (34%). Surface irregularities, when considered as a group of features (e.g.
corrugations, uneven surfaces, potholes, maintenance and finishing issues), accounted for the
largest grouping (39%) of crashes. Together the loose gravel and surface irregularities
accounted for the majority of crashes as opposed to road furniture and design. By
comparison road features accounted for 20% of the crashes in the 1989 Christchurch study,
which also specifically noted loose gravel and maintenance as causing crashes.
Cyclist’s view of crash prevention:
In suggesting prevention strategies, cyclists regarded it their responsibility to prevent their
crash even though they had identified the cause as external to themselves. Most of the
cyclists (52%) considered the main prevention strategy was something they could have done,
such as being more attentive or travelling slower, particularly with younger cyclists. Some
cyclists (22%) considered road improvements as the main means of crash prevention. The
remainder considered issues with their cycle (maintenance, adjustment of cycle parts (e.g.
pedals, handlebars), unexpected failures, or feet slipping off pedals), and behaviour of other
people or animals, in that order, as the main means of crash prevention.
The most frequently injured body parts were the arms, head, and teeth, each constituting
approximately 20% of the injuries. The most frequent injury type was fracture 43%, though
concussion featured highly in 20% of the injuries. Over half of the injuries required
admission to hospital.
Of those injured 50% were under 19 years of age, and the majority (62%) were males. This
is consistent with the cyclist population in general. Age and cycling experience were both
strongly related, i.e. the younger cyclists were the least experienced.
Location and conditions at time of crash:
Most of the crashes (81%) occurred on the road, rather than on footpaths or cycle ways. The
crashes tended to be on straight sections of road away from intersections. Most crashes
(81%) occurred in light road traffic, and in good weather and visibility conditions, with 90%
occurring in dry conditions, 69% in calm winds, and 86% in daylight.
Cycle use and patterns:
Most (58%) of the crashes occurred in 50km/h areas. The main reason for cycling was for
transport (53%) as opposed to sport or leisure. A strong relationship existed between cycle
use and speed zone in that the majority of cyclists who crashed in 100km/h areas were out
training, and most of those who crashed in urban areas were using their cycle for transport.
Helmets were worn by 85% of the cyclists at the time of the crash, 10% reporting that their
helmet had come off during their crash.
• Road features accounted for 28% of cycle-only crashes throughout New Zealand
between 1999 and 200. This is slightly higher than the 20% found by the Christchurch
study in 1989.
• Of the individual road features, loose gravel caused the greatest proportion of crashes,
a finding that is consistent with the Christchurch study.
• Of grouped road features, surface irregularities accounted for 39% of crashes.
• Road furniture does not appear to be a significant primary crash cause.
• The majority of crashes involve those under 19 years old. This age group is of the
least experienced cyclists and are the most likely to blame themselves for the crash.
• The majority of crashes were in urban areas (i.e. <60km/h).
• Most of the crashes in urban areas involved cyclists using their cycle for transport (e.g.
commuting to work, school, shopping), and most of the crashes in 100km/h speed
zones involved cyclists who were out sports training.
To recommend solutions to minimise crash risk presented by these road features to cyclists,
for use by road controlling authorities.
• Minimise loose gravel on the parts of the road where cyclists ride.
• Define the:
• effect of surface irregularities on cycle stability,
• relationships between surface irregularities and the different cyclist groups,
especially those of younger cyclists.
• Better understand the nature and requirements of road riding for different user groups
(e.g. leisure, transport and sports cyclists, and younger cyclists), so that problems
unique to each group can be identified.
• Verify the results of this survey with the New Zealand cycling population.