On Sunday at 9am on ABC Radio National Background Briefing is investigating road cycling and safety.
"With a dramatic increase in cycling, comes a plethora of new safety issues on the roads. Doctors, politicians, planners and cyclists agree it will mean changing the way we design, govern and use our roads."
You can hear a preview of the doco on Radio National Breakfast this morning. -- here.
.. and an ABC News story on the investigation which reveals cycling accidents and injuries are 'grossly under-estimated'
A study obtained by the ABC shows cycling injuries are being grossly under-estimated.
The NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust report, obtained by Radio National's Background Briefing program, has found a huge discrepancy between ACT police data and hospital records.
Official bike injury statistics are based on police records. But not all bike injuries are reported to police, and the report shows that 98 per cent of cycling injuries are not showing up in official statistics.
The report's author is Drew Richardson, an ANU road trauma expert who also works at Canberra hospital.
"We found that only 2 per cent of all cyclist injuries were on the police data base," he said.
"Certainly they were the more severe 2 per cent, but nonetheless numerically that means that the police figures about cycling injury are really not accurate in any meaningful fashion."
Although based on data from the ACT, the report is the most detailed of its kind as is nationally significant. Only Western Australia has attempted a similar survey, using probabilities to estimate state wide police and hospital data.
The ACT figures show that bike crashes account for 10 to 20 per cent of all road trauma injuries.
"In terms of hospital bed days, which is one reasonable financial measure, we are talking 10 to 20 per cent," Professor Richardson said.
"The bicycle burden is significant and it is highly significant in certain age groups, the instance of those 40 to 49-year-olds."
Professor Richardson says the figures show that road cyclists need better protection than a painted bike lane.
"I'm talking about solid infrastructure. I would much rather see segregation of cyclists from motor vehicles. I think that that'd be in the interests of both of them," he said.
"I am very wary about cyclists and larger or faster vehicles sharing the same space. When human beings share the same space they do tend to bump into each other, whether it's in supermarket aisles or lifts. And it's certainly true on the roads.
"So I would like to see infrastructure that separates the cyclists and the large, heavy and quite dangerous vehicles."
In Melbourne, the head of emergency at Sandringham Hospital says cycling injuries have all the hallmarks of an epidemic.
"I use the word epidemic because there has been a true increase in adult cyclists having injuries. And I think it's caught many of the health authorities unawares," Dr James Taylor said.
"And what we have discovered here at Sandringham Hospital is that it's an increasing number of adult cyclists. The majority of our injured cyclist here are adults, mostly men in their 30s, 40s, 50s. So these are the very productive years.
"[In] these years an injury can cause a month or more of disability, and if the worker is off work for a month or two that is a huge cost to them and a cost to the community.
"So we actually have an epidemic that has been under-recognised."
Sandringham Hospital has the closest emergency department to the popular Beach Road road cycling route, which is ridden by up to 25,000 cyclists every weekend.
Dr Taylor says a simple broken arm can cost $6,000 in medical bills and sick leave, and if a cyclist has internal injuries it can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Radio National's Background Briefing program will have the full story this Sunday at 9am.
I read the transcript of this programme recently (worth a read) and was struck by the following comment from Mark Colbran (Head of Traffic Operations in the ACT):
"[...] at the moment we do not teach people [drivers] if you're turning left from a main road, or from a road, to check to your left to see if anything's [e.g. a cyclist] coming up on the inside. It's just not something that we teach them."
Is this really accurate? I wasn't taught to drive in Australia so have no first-hand experience to draw on.
NB: I know being taught it and actually doing it is another matter!