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Cycling injuries in Australia: Road safety’s blind spot?
Cycling rates are relatively low in Australia, but cyclists comprise about 1 in 40 traffic crash fatalities and about 1 in 7 serious injuries. While it appears that cyclists are over-represented in traffic injuries relative to their exposure to injury risk, the magnitude of this excess risk in Australia is currently unknown. The relationship between cycling rates and injury rates over time is also unknown, though the subject of considerable speculation. This paper addresses these two issues, drawing on available traffic injury and travel distance data principally for the greater metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney. Acknowledging data limitations and the need to interpret findings with caution, the evidence suggests that based on fatality and serious injury rates per kilometre travelled in Melbourne and Sydney, the relative risk of fatality for cycling compared with driving is between 5 and 19. The relative risk of serious injury for cycling compared with driving in Melbourne is 13 based on police data, and 34 based on hospital data, while the relative risk of all injuries (minor plus serious) is 19 in Sydney based on police data. Cyclist injuries appear to be increasing sharply in Melbourne (109% increase from 2000 to 2008), although the picture is less clear in Sydney due to data limitations. We argue that the evidence suggests that while road safety counter-measures have undoubtedly led to a safer operating environment for vehicle occupants, the (arguably) car-centric nature of many of these measures appears to have done little to improve cyclist safety.