More people riding bicycles tend to have less accidents

September 8th, 2008 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 8 (IANS) The more the people ride bicycles, the less likely are they to be injured in traffic accidents, according to a study.International research reveals that a cyclist is far less likely to collide with a motor vehicle or suffer injury and death - and what’s true for cyclists is true for pedestrians.

“It’s a virtuous cycle,” said Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from University of North South Wales (UNSW) who addressed a cycling safety seminar in Sydney Sep 5.

“The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle,” she said.

And it’s not simply because there are fewer cars on the roads, but because motorists seem to change their behaviour and drive more safely when they see more cyclists and pedestrians around.

Studies in many countries have shown consistently that the number of motorists colliding with walkers or cyclists doesn’t increase equally with the number of people walking or cycling.

For example, a community that doubles its cycling numbers can expect a one-third drop in the per-cyclist frequency of a crash with a motor vehicle.

Experts said the effect is independent of improvements in cycling-friendly laws such as lower speed limits and better infrastructure, such as bike paths. Research has revealed the safety-in-numbers impact for cyclists in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 European countries and 68 Californian cities.

“It’s a positive effect but some people are surprised that injury rates don’t go up at the same rate of increases in cycling,” said Sydney University’s Chris Rissel, co-author of a 2008 research report on cycling.

“It appears that motorists adjust their behaviour in the presence of increasing numbers of people bicycling because they expect or experience more people cycling. Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists,” Rissel added.

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