Cycling deaths on Australian roads have failed to fall in the last decade.
Cycling deaths on Australian roads have failed to fall in the last decade.

Tragic surge in cyclist deaths

THERE has been an 80 per cent increase in cyclist deaths on our roads in the past 12 months, figures released by the Australian Automobile Association show.

The group says Australia road safety strategy is failing and cyclists are most at risk.

Over the past 12 months 45 cyclists have died on Australian roads, a rise of 20 compared to the previous 12 months.

That is the second worst toll for cyclists in the past decade and well above the long term average.

The spike contrasts with a small reduction in the overall road toll.

"Every person that dies while riding a bike is one too many," said Bicycle Network's chief Craig Richards.

"It is unacceptable that there has been no meaningful reduction in the number of bike rider fatalities in the past two decades.

"It's hard to see how we can reduce fatalities towards zero when we can barely reduce them by one. People who ride bikes will continue to die on our roads until urgent action is taken by all levels of government."

Fatalities involving cyclists have risen dramatically in the past 12 months. Picture: Vicky Andrews
Fatalities involving cyclists have risen dramatically in the past 12 months. Picture: Vicky Andrews

The road safety strategy's aim is reduce the national road toll by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2020.

However, the average number of cyclist deaths hasn't dropped in the first seven years of that period.

"Bike rider fatalities in Australia haven't decreased for two decades and sadly it seems there will be no improvement in 2018. What's being done isn't working and there needs to be immediate intervention," Says Richards.

"Roads must be upgraded to keep bikes and cars separate and in-car technology that helps avoid crashes by removing human error should be mandated. This includes lane-keep assistance, autonomous braking and technology that blocks mobile phone use."

This year the NSW government passed a law that drivers must leave a one metre gap when passing a cyclists, or 1.5m at speeds above 60km/h. Motorists who don't leave enough space can be slugged with a $330 fine and lose two demerit points.

All other states have a similar rule in place with the exception of Victoria, which in 2017 pushed back on legislating minimum passing laws.

Mind the gap: Motorists in Victoria are not required by law to leave a minimum gap when overtaking. Picture: Jason Edwards
Mind the gap: Motorists in Victoria are not required by law to leave a minimum gap when overtaking. Picture: Jason Edwards

NSW allows cyclists to ride on footpaths until they are 16, while in Victoria you can only ride on the footpath until the age of 12.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), which crash tests vehicles, has made autonomous emergency braking (AEB) a prerequisite of achieving a five-star score. AEB will slam on the brakes if it senses a collision and the driver hasn't reacted.

The figures show there has also been a 5 per cent spike in pedestrian deaths. The reduction in fatalities nowhere near the long term targets.

"This is the worst result so far recorded by the AAA's benchmarking process and underscores the need for greater federal road safety oversight to help reduce deaths on the nation's roads," said AAA boss Michael Bradley.

"Road trauma currently costs the national economy more than $29 billion annually and the observed lack of progress reflects Australia's uncoordinated and disorganised approach to road safety.

"The social and human cost of these deaths and injuries is immeasurable, however the costs to the budget and the economy are well understood, which is why the AAA will continue to call on the Federal Government to reinstate federal oversight of road safety data collection and the Strategy's implementation."

Motorcyclists and motor vehicle passengers were the only two groups to see a decrease over the last 12 months, but motorcyclists were still above the road safety target.


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