Cyclists are in more danger on Wellington roads than throughout the rest of New Zealand.
Figures revealed in Greater Wellington regional council's Regional Land Transport Strategy annual monitoring report show a "worsening trend" for cycling casualties on the Wellington region's roads.
For every million hours travelled, a Wellington cyclist is 12 times as likely as a vehicle occupant to be injured in a road crash, compared with 3.5 times nationally. The report says the figures were based on a small sample size, but still show a concerning trend.
"When comparing the Wellington region with New Zealand, the risk to cyclists by distance travelled is far greater than any other risk, a trend that has worsened over time." Last year there were 136 cyclist casualties in the region, compared with about 81 a decade before – about a 68 per cent increase.
The report also found Wellington's overall road toll was improving, with two fewer deaths than the previous year, and fewer crashes.
Regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde said it was good news that the road toll was improving but there was room for improvement. "Wellington City and Wairarapa have worryingly high per capita crash rates. We still have a lot of work to do." She was not surprised Wellington was a more dangerous city to cycle in. Its cycling infrastructure was less developed, and cycling was also gaining in popularity which meant inexperienced cyclists, she said. Along with infrastructure improvements, there also had to be more training for cyclists and drivers, to promote sharing the road.
But people should not be deterred from cycling, and the past two years had seen a fall in cycling casualties, she said. "It is important for people to remember the health and environment benefits of cycling do outweigh the risks. "Through our continued efforts to promote and support improved infrastructure, cyclist safety and driver awareness, we are sure to see continued decline in cycle casualties." The report shows a 9 per cent drop in casualties in the past year, and a 7 per cent improvement in Wellington City, where 53 per cent of accidents occurred last year.
Cycling Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan agreed the benefits of cycling outweighed the risks. "The only thing worse than cycling is not cycling at all."
But new cyclists had to be better trained. Common sense, combined with respect for other drivers, went a long way to keeping cyclists safe, he said.
He hoped the downward trend in the number of casualties in the past two years was a sign of the "safety in numbers effect", with the growing number of cyclists making drivers more conscious of road sharing.
Councils also had to commit to investing in infrastructure. Plenty of cities in the world had narrow roads like Wellington's, but had made good provisions for cyclists, he said.
But a close friend of Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, 57, a former head of road policing who was killed while cycling in Petone in 2008, said the most important thing that had to change was people's attitudes.
Inspector John Walker said Mr Fitzgerald had always said there was no such thing as accidents on the roads, because there were crashes with causes. "It's less about roads, but it's all about attitudes."
Findings of Greater Wellington regional council's Regional Land Transport Strategy annual monitoring report:
20 fatalities in 2009, down from 22 in 2008.
1016 injury crashes in 2009, 15 per cent fewer than 2008.
17.4 million public transport trips taken during 2009-10, down from 17.5m in 2008-09.
There were 1 per cent more bus trips, but train trips were down 6 per cent on 2008-09 year.
1096 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, up from 1087 kilotonnes in 2008-09