Section 4: Safety

This section provides data on the trends, risks, and costs of Canberra’s deeply ingrained car culture, where vulnerable road users have ‘no place on our road’, and where the young and the old are particularly at risk. They are disadvantaged – not only due to cognitive (or physical) limitations, but also due to the lack of real and honest options that are widely supported by our community. Some of the best reasons for fixing active travel in Canberra are health, human equity, and safety.

4 Safety

4.1 Austroads recommendations on speed limits

In Germany, the land of the Autobahn, cars driving 200 km/h are not uncommon, with some reaching 230 km/h. At this speed, the car roars and the fuel gauge plummets. Cars that change lanes loom up at an unnerving speed. The German government is considering reducing the maximum speed limit on autobahns to 160 km/h. Some Germans protest against driving so slowly. Other groups point out the benefits that include far less noise in the surrounding areas, and reduced fuel consumption, pollution, and less road deaths.

Many Canberrans would say Germans are crazy to drive so fast, but then the Germans react the same way to us. In Germany, the speed limit in cities is 50 km/h, even on major two-lane roads, and often even slower on local streets. To a German, driving faster than 50 km/h on a local street is considered dangerous. Austroads would agree, yet this is our situation in Canberra.

We are all better than average

Most of the population thinks that as a driver they are better than average. It is statistically impossible for most people to be better than average, but it highlights human nature to think we are better than we are.

What the average driver can do to improve road safety is well documented by science, and research has confirmed the truth of it again and again. Cars move too fast to be around people. “Safer city” implies we should drive slower.

Austroads in 2020 published a report recently confirming this. The Austroads report, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users,[1] is a guideline how to make our cities both safer and more liveable. The many good practices and recommendation are labelled a Safe System, in contrast to the status quo, which is clearly not always that safe. Vulnerable road users are namely pedestrians and cyclists. Human beings are fragile and fallible. When a car collides with a pedestrian or cyclist, they can get seriously injured – sometimes fatally. Injuries and deaths are avoidable with better urban design. As one urban planner explained, “If you have to put up signs, you have a design problem!”

The road network

The map (figure 4-1) below shows an urban environment in Belconnen. A road network, where small local roads feed connecting roads to larger main roads. In the ACT, these roads are called Local Access Streets, Minor and Major Collectors, and Arterials. In the map the yellow and green streets have a speed limit of 50 km/h, the orange streets 60 km/h and the blue streets 80 km/h. The exception is around schools where the speed is 40 km/h.

Figure 4‑1 Belconnen map showing the road network made up of Local Access Streets, Minor and Major Collectors, and Arterials. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool, ACT Government.

Lower speed limits

Austroads recommended speed limits within Canberra are shown in table 4-1.

Table 4‑1 The recommended speeds and circumstances description taken from the Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (Austroads, 2020), 9.

For many people, 30 km/h may seem a bit too slow. Austroads sees it differently.

“It is increasingly accepted by road safety practitioners that, to be aligned with the Safe System philosophy for pedestrians and cyclists, 30km/h impact speeds define the upper limit of an ‘acceptable’ collision. This ‘Safe System boundary condition’ coincides with an approximate 10% chance of the struck pedestrian being killed by the collision. Put another way, this corresponds to a 90% chance of survival. For the corresponding situation with serious injury (i.e., a collision with a pedestrian producing a 10% chance of serious injury), a much lower impact speed applies.” [2]

A driver may brake, but it is often not the case.

“Research carried out by Anderson et al. (1997) found that about half of all fatally injured pedestrians in their study were struck at the initial travel speed; that is the driver had not braked before impact. This means that the travel speed is commonly the impact speed. For these reasons, pedestrian and cyclist measures should, ideally, be designed and operated to secure impact speeds to not more than 30km/h.”[3]

There are huge benefits to small speed reductions on local roads. Corben, D’Elia and Healy (2006) indicated fatal injury risk to a pedestrian reduces by:

“ – 90-95% when a driver chooses to travel at 30km/h instead of 50km/h
– 75-80% when a driver chooses to travel at 40km/h instead of 50km/h.”[4]

The problem the urban planners face is a political one.

“While 30km/h speed limits in local streets offer the simplest and lowest cost means of designing for Safe System risk levels for pedestrians and cyclists, the current default speed limit is 50km/h and there is little evidence of the political level allowing the profession to reduce the default urban speed limit to 40km/h.”[5]

Lack of footpaths

We do not have footpaths in the ACT but instead community paths that can be used by pedestrians and cyclists. Many older suburbs in the ACT have streets without any community paths, so for many Canberrans the situation described in the Austroads report would sound familiar.

“Footpaths tend to be taken for granted but are too often not provided in local streets… This happens as a result of a failure to make even the most basic provision for walking in urban areas. There are a number of important consequences from these long-standing practices. First, pedestrians are forced to walk on roadways when the space normally provided for footpaths is blocked by overgrown trees and other vegetation, parked vehicles or otherwise unsuited for walking because of wet weather and/or poor surfaces. This results in pedestrians, often children on foot and/or parents with young children, prams and strollers, negotiating traffic while walking on the road alongside approaching traffic travelling at 50km/h or higher. On occasions, pedestrians will have their backs turned and have minimal lateral clearances. Such conditions are far outside the boundaries for low-risk walking and often remain in place for decades due to insufficient funding to rectify the situation. Mobility-impaired people and older and younger pedestrians using local streets become even more vulnerable in these circumstances.

A secondary effect of a lack of basic walking conditions is that people are more inclined to driver, particularly when transporting children to and from school, which adds to the problems of car dependence, human inactivity, congestion around schools and the resultant risks that children face when interacting with traffic.”[6]

Alternative to reducing speed limits

It is difficult to make cities a nice place to live that is safe for people, and reconcile that with the transport systems that we all require. Urban planners describe this in a framework called Movement and Place. Tension and compromise in urban planning is nothing new.

Figure 4‑2 Proposed Movement and Place framework showing road street families, B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users. Sydney, 4.

The conflict between transport and vulnerable road users is recognised as a “dilemma and major challenge.” The report recommends that “travel speeds of 30 km/h or lower are needed where vehicles are able to interact with pedestrians and cyclists” but if this is not possible then “effective physical separation is required to meet Safe System principles.”

The alternative to reduced speed limits is to move pedestrians and cyclists from roads to protected and separated community paths. Unfortunately, protected and separated community paths often do not exist in our older suburbs and are expensive to build. Current funding for road infrastructure is from crash histories. This mindset makes it difficult to justify the cost of separated community paths.

“A major shift in methods of prioritisation will be needed, as current economic criteria will rarely lead to such funding being provided… Alternatively, the status quo will prevail, and with it a steadily growing problem of road trauma involving cyclists and pedestrians.

Where lower speed limits are preferred over physical separation, significant leadership and community/political engagement will be needed to address the current (sometimes) vocal resistance in communities and among some stakeholders. Considerable progress has been made across Australasia with the implementation of 40km/h speed limits where (higher-risk) walking and cycling predominate. In general, the economic impacts feared by early opponents have not eventuated and opposition has been short-lived.”[7]

The last point is good news. People often resist change but are also quick to accept it when they find that the change is for the better. The ACT Government does not have a great deal of money to fund cycle paths but could easily make Canberra a better and safer place to live with little cost by introducing 30 km/h speed limits on local roads. Should that not be immediately acceptable to the community, a step reduction to 40 km/h on our local streets would be a big improvement.

4.2 Cycling injuries to children

Cycling road fatalities are not all that common but injuries certainly are. Navigating roads in cities is a constant challenge for vulnerable road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. The old and young are particularly at risk. We want to reduce cycling injuries on the road and especially for our children.

“There are ways to reduce injuries in kids that don’t involve wrapping them in cotton wool” (The Conversation, 16/6/2017) has a breakdown of children’s injuries, including those due to cycling.

“The authors looked at data from 2002-2012 where there were over 680,000 injury-related hospitalisations for kids (aged under 16) across Australia, caused mostly by falls and transport-related injuries.”[8]

There were 37,382 injuries to cyclists for children under 16 years of age between 2002-2012 with a total hospital costs of $130 million. Transport injuries make up 13.7% of all injuries and cycling injuries for children is the most common cause.

“Pedal cyclists ($131 million) and motor vehicle occupants ($126million) represented the costliest type of transport incidents for children.”[9]

“Injury prevention measures aimed at reducing injuries to pedal cyclists include introducing environmental changes, such as traffic calming methods like speed bumps to slow vehicle speed, creating mechanisms to separate pedal cyclists from vehicles, such as cycle pathways, and increasing a child’s road safety knowledge and traffic skills.”[10]

Wearing a helmet also helps, protecting the cyclist from both head and facial injuries.

“Road transport injuries were most common for children aged 11-16 years (17.8%) compared to those aged 6-10 years (12.3%) and those aged less than five years (4.5%).”[11]

Investment in cycling infrastructure can be justified in cost-benefit studies on health benefits. It makes sense with hospital costs of $130 million alone just for children between 2002 to 2012.

We do not want to be injured cycling or see our loved ones injured, particularly our children. There can hardly be a better argument for increased funding in the ACT budget for infrastructure that keeps vulnerable road users safe. Unfortunately, the funding has been low.

4.3 Australian cycling safety 2015

Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development report states: “cyclists are considered vulnerable road users, whereby an error that might trigger a minor incident for a vehicle occupant could have major consequences for a cyclist.”[12] The data would suggest that cycling is getting more dangerous with hospitalisations growing 4% per annum nationally.

Quick facts from the report (national figures):

  • Cyclists comprise 3% of all road fatalities and 15% of all road hospitalisations.
  • Children (0–16 years) have the highest population-standardised rate of cycling hospitalisations.
  • Males are approximately four times more likely than females to be hospitalised following a cycling crash.
  • Around 85% of reported cyclist casualty crashes involve another vehicle (mostly a light vehicle).
  • Around 25% of cyclist casualty crashes occur when two vehicles (including the cyclist) approach an intersection from perpendicular directions or from opposing directions. Other frequent crash types are side-swipes (14%) or collisions with vehicle doors (7%).
  • Cyclist casualty crashes are heavily skewed towards the lower posted speed zones (50 km/h and 60 km/h).

Traffic collisions ACT

Fatalities: cyclists as a proportion of all traffic fatalities, over time

5-year periodACT
2005-20092.5%
2010-20147.4%
Table 4‑2 Fatalities: cyclists as a proportion of all traffic fatalities, over time. Australian cycling safety 2015, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government, 4.

Hospitalisations: cyclists hospitalised in traffic crashes

YearACT
2005-06101
2006-07102
2007-08119
2008-09175
Table 4‑3 Hospitalisations: cyclists hospitalised in traffic crashes. Australian cycling safety 2015, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government, 4.

Reported injuries: cyclists injured in traffic crashes per 100,000 population.

YearCanberra
200817,8
200916,9
201020,5
201121,5
201229,3
201320,7
Table 4‑4 Reported injuries: cyclists injured in traffic crashes per 100,000 population. Australian cycling safety 2015, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government, 6.

Casualty crash details

Cyclists’ casualties are most likely on local roads with speed limits of 50 km/h or less. The reasons are twofold. First, at lower speeds, the cyclist is most likely to survive. Second, low-speed streets are most likely to be used by a cyclist. Cyclists keep away from busier roads. Figure 4-3 and 4-4 show national figures.

Figure 4‑4 Report casualty crashes by posted speed limit (km/h) 2008-2013. Australian cycling safety 2015, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government, 8.
Figure 4‑4 Report casualty crashes by posted speed limit (km/h) 2008-2013. Australian cycling safety 2015, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government, 8.

Analysis of crash types

Being cut off by a car while crossing an intersection is a common crash type for both 0-16 years (13%) and 25-60 years (12%). Children are also particularly vulnerable riding onto the road (“manoeuvring”) from the footway (27%) or driveway (13%).

Children are poor at judging when it is safe to “step” onto the road. They make mistakes and underestimate how easy it is for the driver to be unaware of them. Adults are much more aware of this and such collisions are much less common for adults of ages 25-60 years (footway 4% or driveway 5%). At intersections, we negotiate with drivers by making eye contact and judging whether we will be cut off.[13]

4.4 Why speed kills cyclists

Cyclists face much greater risks riding on roads than when riding on grade separated bike paths. Collisions with a motor vehicle may be fatal. What makes a motor vehicle so deadly?

Vulnerable road users

Vulnerable road users are typically cyclists and pedestrians. People are soft but motor vehicles are not. When the two meet, it can be fatal. The problem of speed is discussed in Austroads Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users.[14]

Fatalities depend on vehicle speed

The relationship between the speed and energy of the motor vehicle is unfortunate. The cyclist will likely die in a collision with a car travelling at 50 km/h. The good news: reduce the speed of the car to 30 km/h and the cyclist will almost certainly survive, but injuries are still very likely. Cycling on bike paths on the verge and away from the road are safer than riding on the road.

Figure 4‑5 Relationship between collision speed and the probability of a fatality. Source: Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (Austroads,2020).

The problem of energy

Motor vehicles at speed carry an enormous amount of energy that can shred two cars when they collide.

Double the speed of the motor vehicle and the energy increases four times (figure 4-6). Small increases in speed result in large increases in energy. The opposite is also true. Small reductions in road speed greatly reduce the energy and with it any fatalities. Reducing motor vehicle speed is the most effective and inexpensive measure to improve road safety.

Figure 4‑6 The energy of the motor vehicle increases rapidly with increases in speed. Graphic: canberra.bike

The problem of braking

Stopping distances greatly increase with speed due to the energy relationship. The situation is worsened by human reaction times. Our brain takes relatively long to react to danger. Nothing we can do will shorten it. Distractions such as phones make it longer still. Even with the best intentions, our concentration will lapse and be slowed by fatigue.

In half of all fatal bike cycle collisions, the driver never manages to brake.[15] This is why decreasing road speed limits make such a big difference.

The stopping distances of typical passenger cars for a range of initial travel speeds are shown below. A car travelling 50 km/h will take 30 m to stop and will have moved 20 m forward without any speed reduction before the driver can react and brake.

Figure 4‑7 Stopping distances of typical passenger cars for a range of initial travel speeds (calculations assume a coefficient of friction of 0.70 and a driver perception-reaction time of 1.2 seconds). Source: Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (Austroads,2020).

4.5 Pyrrhic victories in road safety

Motor vehicles squeeze vulnerable road users off the roads. With three tonnes of a speeding motor vehicle approaching, and the driver oblivious to your presence, this should not be a surprise. The most vulnerable of all are children.

A sad turnabout in active travel is the trend in Australia that children do not walk to school anymore. The issue is rather that we as parents do not let them walk to school. In the 1970s in Australia, most children walked or rode to school, and few were driven. Today the opposite is the case.

The UK author Peter Walker wrote in his book The Miracle Pill.

“Childhood might now be safer, particularly on the roads, but when this is mainly achieved by shutting young people in their homes, this is something of a pyrrhic victory.”[16]

Feeling safe

“There has been considerable public hand wringing in recent years about the perceived cosseting of children, with a lack of independence meaning many are ferried more or less everywhere in a parent’s car. Physical play is supervised and limited, without previous generations’ ability to roam, explore and experiment. These worries are based in fact. A useful indicator for independent childhood mobility is how children get to and from school, and there is no doubt the statistics show a decline in active travel.”[17]

“Again, the villain of the piece is towns and cities dominated by motor traffic. Fear of road danger by parents is both obvious and understandable. Globally, road injuries are the leading cause of death among children and young people, killing more than AIDS, tuberculosis and diseases like dysentery, combined. In the UK, 70 per cent of parents who drive their primary-age children to school cite danger from cars as the main reason, even as their own transport choice adds to the problem. “[18]

“One reason, of course, is that travel decisions are based on perceived danger, and not statistics. But there is another theory. In 1990, Mayer Hillman, a radical architect-turned-campaigner for liveable cities, published a study into childhood independence and mobility, the message of which still resonates today. It was called One False Move.”[19]

Missing the message

The point of the One False Move advertising campaign was to warn drivers that they should be careful when they see children, as primary school children do not have cognitive ability to accurately judge distance and speed. The wording was poor and the campaign backfired. The slogan One False Move  was seen to put the onus on the children, who could do nothing about the roads, which had been built in a way that they could not navigate safely. The parents reacted predictably to the threat and simply stopped their kids from walking to school.

“The think tank Hillman worked with, the Policy Studies Institute, had carried out a series of surveys in 1971 in five areas of England about children’s independence and mobility. He decided to replicate these, and the findings were striking. For example, in 1971, more than 80 per cent of eight-year-olds were allowed to go to school unaccompanied. Less than twenty years later this had fallen to about 10 per cent. The proportion of all children allowed to ride their bike on the road fell from nearly 70 per cent to 25 per cent. The same picture emerged in virtually every aspect of the children’s active lives.

Hillman quoted the writer Roald Dahl recounting his joy as a six-year-old in 1922 racing his sister on his tricycle on the near-deserted roads where he grew up in Wales. The further back you went, Hillman noted, the greater the likelihood of an adult recalling the ‘good old days’ of such an independent, mobile childhood. Modern children, he argued, were not any safer; they were just more confined. ‘The “good old days” of reminiscence and the “good new days” depicted by the accident statistics are reconciled by the loss of children’s freedom,’ Hillman said. ‘The streets have not become safer, they have become, as the government’s poster proclaims, extremely dangerous. It is the response to this danger, by both children and their parents, that has contained the road accident death rate.’”[20]

4.7 Safety is all in the mind

“Feeling safe” is a psychological on construct. A German study has many interesting things to tells us about our perceptions of safety.

Figure 4‑8 Are cars better bollards. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

The perception of personal safety is particularly important for a cyclist. Many people will say that they do not cycle because they feel unsafe. Often authorities fall back to statistics, suggesting that it is not as bad as people think. However, if we want people to cycle, we must first feel safe. A study in Berlin looks at the types of cycle infrastructure that makes people feel safe.

Cycling is for everybody. In one study in Berlin, 21,000 people were asked what made them feel safe. “Berlin wants streets like this”[21] paints a picture of how the city of Berlin would look for cyclists. A more traditional approach are traffic studies, which provide a statistical measure of real safety but may do little to encourage people to ride. We need both: infrastructure that people think is safe, and infrastructure that has been proven to be safe. Luckily, the two have a lot in common. Another excellent report from Austroads, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users,[22] looks at cycling safety from the latter perspective.

Building bike paths on the green field is great if you have space, however, in town centres and Civic, this is not likely. All big cities have the problem that there is often the least available space, where people want to ride most. There are many options on how we could make cities bike-friendly. The below computer study generated random infrastructure changes for people to consider.

First the worst (figure 4-9) and the best (figure 4-10).

95.4% of cyclists feel unsafe
100% of cyclists feel safe

People value being separated from cars, and roads need to be wide enough for that to be possible. Without a bike lane, cyclist will not feel safe. Markings on the road make cyclists feel safer.

Figure 4‑11 Without bike lanes. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].
Figure 4‑12 With bike lanes. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

Better than a cycle lane is to separate the cyclist from traffic with bollards. It does not matter that much what sort of bollards are used.

Figure 4‑13 Structural separation makes a big difference. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].
Figure 4‑14 Bollards make people feel safe. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

Passing parked cars is a common cause of low-speed collisions (dooring). For this reason, bike lanes beside parking spaces are not recommended (see Austroads). The best option is to have the parked cars on one side of the bollards and the cyclists on the other.

Figure 4‑15 Parking spaces are scary. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].
Figure 4‑16 Bike path next to parked cars. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].
Figure 4‑17 Are parked cars the better bollards. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

Grade separation is where the cyclist is moved off the road onto the verge. The verge of many city roads (Northbourne Avenue in Civic) is a paved sidewalk in front of shops and offices. Pedestrians are common. Pedestrians can worry about fast-moving cyclists, and cyclists can worry about unpredictable pedestrians with their eyes glued to their smartphones. The pressures increase with outdoor seating as well on sidewalks. The answer is “think three” – keep the bike path separated and clearly delineated from the pedestrian and road area.

Figure 4‑18 Wide bike path with grade separation. Berlin safe street survey. FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

4.8 Good reasons for cycle paths

There are good reasons for the ACT Government to invest in cycling infrastructure. Here are three:

  1. People will only cycle if they feel safe, and they do not feel safe riding on the road.
  2. Safe cycling infrastructure reduces road fatalities.
  3. Better and safer cycling infrastructure reduces injuries, particularly among the old and young, who are more vulnerable in negotiating traffic.

Other countries have confirmed that when the cycling infrastructure improves, more people take up cycling.

Cycling infrastructure is worthwhile

Given the choice of riding on a busy road or driving, most people will take the car. Many studies confirm this including a recent Berlin study (Section 5.7).[23] The reason the cycle fatalities are low is that we choose not to ride on roads – a pyrrhic victory (Section 4.5). Without dedicated grade separated cycling infrastructure, people will not cycle except as a form of recreation, as has happened in Canberra over the last decade. Kids cannot drive but they can ride a bike. For that reason alone, good cycling infrastructure is worthwhile.

“If you want to take urban biking seriously you need to build more, you need to build a lot more, a lot faster, separated cycling infrastructure. Not on every street, but on every street that has high volume and high speeds. Painted lanes will not do. You will not even get close to 10% mode share.” Brent Toderian [24]

4.9 Measuring cycling safety

The adage “we should measure what is important” would explain the emphasis on crash statistics for road safety. This data centres on registered motor vehicles and roads. Cyclists are poorly served by it as bicycles are not registered, insured and often far from a road. If safe cycling is a priority for the ACT Government we need data for cyclists too.

The ACT Government takes its duty of care seriously. Duty of care is ensured through systems that have gone through decades of refinement. What is important is measured and monitored. The data should inform government policy which directs investment.

A good example of this is the road system, where decades of research have resulted in standards and practices that ensure our safety and led to continuous improvement. It is paradoxical perhaps that as we make roads safer, we see it as an invitation to drive faster and more carelessly. Studies have shown most people regard themselves as better than average drivers.

Statistics are powerful. The ACT Government has noted the rise of collisions on some ACT roads and produced ACT arterial road maps that display in colours the frequency of collisions.

If the road is coloured red, the collision rate is above a tolerable threshold. Duty of care cuts in at this point, with the obligation to do something about it. A contracted consultancy may recommend measures, such as reducing speeds by just 10 km/h, which would reduce collisions by 30%. This is the nature of speed: small decreases in speed greatly reduce the collision and fatality rates.

Unfortunately, what we do so well for roads and motoring is not done for cycling.

  • It was noted in 2012 by the auditor general that the ACT Government has no system for auditing the quality of paths to determine when maintenance is required.
  • There is no monitoring of cycling traffic along bike paths to determine when the designed capacity of a path is likely to be exceeded.
  • Accident reporting for motorists differs for cyclists. When you break an arm in a car you are expected to call the police on 000, but when you break an arm riding a bike the 000 call is unlikely to be welcome.
  • Austroads standards have only recently seriously addressed cycling transport. In places like the Netherlands this is very advanced.
  • Even if the ACT Government would like to improve cycling in Canberra, the consultants and contractors that provide the services may be limited and not well informed about cycling best practice. Commonly, consultants and contractors are not from the ACT.

The absence of measures to guarantee and improve cycling safety can be seen as neglecting the principle of duty of care. Injuries to cyclists would seem to be less important than injuries to motorists. There is no reason that this should be the case. We need to give cyclist safety the priority it deserves.


[1] B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users. Sydney, Austroad, 2020, https://austroads.com.au/publications/road-safety/ap-r611-20, 14, [accessed 7th July 2021)

[2] B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users. Sydney, Austroad, 2020, https://austroads.com.au/publications/road-safety/ap-r611-20, 14, [accessed 7th July 2021)

[3] Ibid., 15.

[4] Ibid., 24.

[5] Ibid., 24.

[6] B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users.Sydney, 109.

[7] B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users.Sydney, 87.

[8] Hunter, K, & L Keay, ‘There are ways to reduce injuries in kids that don’t involve wrapping them in cotton wool’.in The Conversation, , 2017, <https://theconversation.com/there-are-ways-to-reduce-injuries-in-kids-that-dont-involve-wrapping-them-in-cotton-wool-79408&gt; [accessed 8 July 2021].

[9] Ibid.

[10] Hunter, K, & L Keay, ‘There are ways to reduce injuries in kids that don’t involve wrapping them in cotton wool’.in The Conversation.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Australian cycling safety: casualties, crash types and participation levels, Australian Government, 2015,

[13] Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Australian cycling safety: casualties, crash types and participation levels, Australian Government, 2015,

[14] B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users. Sydney, Austroad, 2020, https://austroads.com.au/publications/road-safety/ap-r611-20, 14, [accessed 7th July 2021)

[15] B. Corben, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users. Sydney, Austroad, 2020, https://austroads.com.au/publications/road-safety/ap-r611-20, 14, [accessed 7th July 2021)

[16] Peter Walker, The Miracle Pill.Kindle Edition, Simon & Schuster UK, 2021.

[17] Ibid., 216.

[18] Ibid., 216.

[19] Ibid., 217.

[20] Ibid., 217-18.

[21] FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

[22] Corben, B, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users.Sydney, Austroad, 2020, <https://austroads.com.au/publications/road-safety/ap-r611-20&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

[23] FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

[24] Tonderian, B, CURF Seminar – Place based development.Canberra, University of Canberra, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuRHbrl8a5g&ab_channel=UniversityOfCanberra, 36;19-36:50, [accessed 7 July 2021].

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