Cycle Safety: Reducing the Crash Risk - NZTA RR389


Cycling is a sustainable mode of travel and an alternative to motor vehicle trips, particularly for shorter trips (less than 5km). Government transport strategies, including the New Zealand Transport Strategy and Getting there – on foot, by cycle, encourage the development of cycling and walking plans and infrastructure improvements that encourage more ‘active’ mode trips. While health and transport benefits are likely to result from promoting more cycling, the risk of having a crash while cycling is typically higher than while travelling as a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle. This is of concern to cyclists, potential cyclists and organisations involved in road safety.

The challenge for transport engineers and planners is to create a transportation environment that is as safe as possible for cyclists. This can be achieved through a series of measures, including, where practical, reducing traffic volumes and speeds, building on-road cycle lanes and intersection facilities, and constructing of off-roadway cycle paths. The safety benefit of most of these measures has not, to date, been quantified in New Zealand. Internationally, the research is also limited, particular in terms of the direct relationship between crashes and various roadway features and traffic conditions. This study extends previous work on the relationship between crashes and volumes of cycles and motor vehicles to the development of crash prediction models for on-roadway cycle facilities at intersections and along road links. The effects of speed and off-roadway paths have been assessed based on overseas research. 

Historically, off-roadway paths and quiet streets were the primary components of most cycle networks. In many cities, including most of the large Australasian cities, the focus is still on getting cyclists off busy arterial routes and onto off-roadway paths and local low speed streets. However, the disadvantage to many cyclists of off-roadway paths and local roads is that they are often not as direct as arterial roads, which is likely to be less attractive to many ‘confident’ cyclists, given the longer travel times experienced by cyclists compared to motor vehicles. Issues also arise at each end of the cycle path, where cyclists normally have to use arterial routes to access their destinations. As cycling volumes grow, it will become increasingly more important to provide on-roadway facilities for cyclists. A key element of this study is to understand and quantify the safety effect of cycle lanes, car parking and other improvement measures, such as intersection treatments and flush medians, on cycle safety, particularly on higher volume routes. We appreciate that in many cities, this requires the reallocation of road space to cycle facilities, which may not be popular with some stakeholders.  In such discussions, the evidence of safety gains for such improvements is particularly important and is a key driver for this research project, which was undertaken in 2006.

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