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Understanding the fear of bicycle riding in Australia

Fishman, E, Washington, S, Haworth, N (Peer reviewed)



Rates of bicycle commuting currently hover around 1 - 2% in most Australian capital cities, although 17.8% of Australians report riding at least once per week. The most commonly stated reason for choosing not to ride a bicycle is fear of motorised vehicles. This paper sets out to examine the literature and offer a commentary regarding the role fear plays as a barrier to bicycle riding. The paper also provides an estimate of the relative risk of driving and riding, on a per trip basis. An analysis of the existing literature finds fear of motorised traffic to be disproportionate to actual levels of risk to bicycle riders. Moreover, the health benefits of bicycling outweigh the risks of collision. Rather than actual collisions forming the basis of people’s fear, it appears plausible that near collisions (which occur far more frequently) may be a significant cause for the exaggerated levels of fear associated with bicycle riding. In order to achieve the Australian Government’s goal of doubling bike riding participation, this review suggests it will be necessary to counter fear through the creation of a low risk traffic environment (both perceived and real), involving marketing/promotional campaigns and the development of a comprehensive bicycle infrastructure network and lower speed limits.