Safer walking and cycling is most easily achieved by reducing traffic speed. We have known this for over a decade but do too little to curb road speeds. Here is a report from 2008 stating the case.
The report from November 2008, Safe Speed: promoting safe walking and cycling by reducing traffic speed by Dr Jan Garrard, November 2008, and supported by Safe Speed Interest Group, comprising the Heart Foundation, City of Port Phillip and City of Yarra, Victoria. Here is a summary of the report.
Cycling and walking shares of urban trips in Europe, Canada, and the USA
In some countries, there is more walking and cycling than others, but Australia is absolutely amongst the worst. We can do a lot better.
Pedestrian and bicycling fatality rates and nonfatal injury rates in the USA, Germany and Netherlands in 2000
In a low cycling and walking country, such as the USA, there are many more deaths compared to the level of activity compared to countries where cycling and walking are much more common. There are many reasons for this, one being that the cities are built in a way that is much safer for cycling and walking. This is not by accident. Building safe cities is a major paradigm shift and a reset for Australia. The future investment in transport must take a human centric approach and prioritise cycling and walking.
Proposed relationships between vehicle speed and active travel behaviour
There is a strong relationship between reduced vehicle speed and increased cycling and walking. When vulnerable road users feel safe moving around the city, active travel is common.
Annual kilometres cycled and cycling fatality rates per inhabitant in the Netherlands, 1950-2005
The Netherlands is a good example of a country that turned the tables on a car-dominated culture. In the post-war period, the transport network was optimised for motor vehicles and vulnerable road users were consequently pushed off the roads. This can be seen in the blue curve. In 1975, as a result of a wave of protests due to the deaths of vulnerable road users, in particular children, the direction of development was changed and weighted in favour of pedestrian and cyclist safety. This led to a system of safety and safe infrastructure and a great reduction of cyclists killed, even though bike use continuously increased.
International and Australasian speed limits
In Europe, the speed limits are significantly lower than in Australia. The benefit of the doubt always is heavily skewed to the safety of vulnerable road users, and that improved with lower speed limits.
Probability of fatal injury for a pedestrian or cyclist struck by a motor vehicle
Canberra.bike has shown this curve before. Fatilities on collision with a pedestrian drop from 85% to 10% by dropping the speed limit from 50 to 30 km/h. So simple yet so effective!
German traffic laws – drivers must yield to, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists
Motor vehicles are required to yield to vulnerable road users and are at fault in the case of collision. This is recognition of who loses in such collision! The obligation of the driver is to do everything possible to avoid harm.
Relationship between percentage change in speed and percentage change in crashes
Small changes in the average road speed result in large improvements to the changes of crashes with fatalities and injuries.
Pedestrians and cyclists seriously injured or killed, Victoria
Victoria accident statistics between 1996-2007.
Pedestrian fatalities, 1987‐2006
Victoria accident statistics: pedestrians by age. Old people are more vulnerable. Much could be done.
Proportion of cyclists killed or seriously injured by age
Victoria accident statistics: seriously injured by age. Young children are particularly vulnerable to injury.
Walking and cycling mode share (% trips) and total road fatalities per 100,000 population
In those countries where the proportion of the population walking and cycling is low, the road fatalities are high. Vulnerable road users do no feel safe and do not walk, and those that do accept a greater risk, resulting in higher fatalities.
Women’s share of total bike trips in Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, 2000-2005
Women are more sensitive than men to risk when deciding on whether they will cycle. In countries where the risk is high, very few women cycle. Many are surprised in Australia to discover that in the Netherlands more women cycle than men. Safe roads and good cycling infrastructure are good for everybody, both men and women, from 8 to 80 years of age.
Road traffic health impact iceberg
When considering the benefits of cycling, we often consider only the road system. Yes, there will be fewer cars, less pollution and less noise, but that is not all. There are also many health and wellbeing benefits to directly linked to cyling. In summary, cycling saves our society money and creates a happier and better society.