Profiling Cyclists Injured in Crashes: South Australian Data

Piccadilly bicycle crash

A cyclist and a ute crashed in Piccadilly, with the cyclist being taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.*

The Centre for Automotive Safety Research at the University of Adelaide has recently published a descriptive report looking at the circumstances surrounding crash involvement for a group of 61 bicycle riders involved in a collision with a motorised vehicle who were admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital over the period between January 1 2008 and December 31 2010.

This descriptive study provides some insight into cyclists and motor vehicle interaction and adds to growing literature on the subject.

What we can take away from this study is that motorists are at fault in most crashes (79%), intersections are the most dangerous place for cyclists, and we need as cyclists to have heightened awareness within five kilometres of home.

Issues that arise in discussions within the cycling community and the general community such as close passing, an issue that the WA Police will not enforce and an issue that the RAC of WA will not support stronger legislation on was a cause in 11% of cases. The hot topic of red light jumping was not a cause of any note, only applied to one case or 1% of the cases and the other hot topics of the use of audio devices and the failure to not use lights had no influence in the reported cases.

The abstract for the report provides a good summary …

Crashes involving pedal cyclists in South Australia have steadily increased over the past ten years. In 2001 pedal cycle crashes constituted around 12% of all traffic crashes resulting in hospital admission, increasing to 17.4% in 2010 (SA Heath and SA Police unpublished data sources). There have been several suggestions why the increase has occurred including a renewed interest in cycling and an increased awareness of the health and environmental benefits. In response to the demonstrated increase in crashes there is a need to identify those contributing factors that may place this vulnerable road user group at increased risk. This project explores the circumstances surrounding crash involvement for a group of 61 bicycle riders involved in a collision with a motorised vehicle who were admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital over the period between January 1 2008 and December 31 2010. Data collected and matched during the study included medical records data generated during hospitalisation, police data related to the crash and Forensic Science data related to mandatory testing for alcohol and drugs. This data was combined with information gathered during voluntary participation in interviews with the cyclists involved following informed consent.

Key Findings from the Report

Keeping in mind this is a descriptive study of 61 cyclists presenting at one hospital in South Australia, the Royal Adelaide Hospital over a two-year period, 2008-2010, the key findings from the report are:

  • Crashes involving cyclists in South Australia are increasing, with a suggestion that 17.4% of crashes involved cyclists.
  • The participations where generally experienced road cyclists, with an average road riding distance of 10,000 km per year;
  • The sample is dominated by male cyclists in the 36 to 55 age group;
  • The most serious injuries incurred by cyclists were fractures, followed by those who sustained internal organ injuries;
  • Close to a third of cyclists experienced a loss of consciousness after the crash.
  • More than half of the cyclists involved in the crashes had an injury severity score (ISS) of five or less, however, five per cent of the crashes resulted in the cyclists sustaining injuries where the ISS was 21 or more;
  • Those cyclists who struck the side of a vehicle were generally found to sustain more serious injuries when compared with other crash types and resulted in hospitalisation for longer periods.

Crash Details – Key Points

The key points related to the crashes themselves are:

  • Close to 40 per cent of all crashes in the study involved an oncoming vehicle turning right across the path of a cyclist who was continuing straight.
    • In more than 60 per cent of these cases the vehicle driver was crossing two or more traffic lanes while undertaking the right turn manoeuvre.
    • The cyclist either struck the passenger side of the turning vehicle or the cyclist was struck on the right side.
    • In more than half of all turning vehicles the driver was intending to turn into a side street, frequently occurring at a T-junction, while 25 per cent of cases involved a vehicle that was turning right at a signalised cross-intersection.
  • The second most common crash scenario involved vehicles travelling in the stem of a T-junction that came into the path of a cyclist who was travelling straight on the continuing road. This crash type accounted for close to 20 per cent of all cases.
  • Collisions between a vehicle and a cyclist travelling in the same direction were the third most common movements leading to crashes in the study. In half of these cases the crash occurred as a result of the vehicle driver turning left into a side street immediately ahead of the cyclist, accounting for ten per cent of all crashes.
  • A side-swipe collision between the right side of the cyclist and the passenger side of the vehicle were also common.
  • T-junctions where the most common crash site followed by straight-roads. Interesting only two crashes occurred at roundabouts.
  • 90% of the crashes involved a car or car derivative;
  • WIth the exception of four cases all crashes occurred in fine or non-rainy conditions;
  • In 79% of the cases the motorist was found to be at fault;
  • The majority of the crashes occurred within five kilometres of home

Other Interesting Points Worthy of Note

  • Red light jumping by a cyclist was the cause of the crash in one incident (1%) and a motorist ran the red light in another case (1%);
  • The use of headphones was reported in only three cases (4%)
  • All night-time or early morning/late afternoon cases where the use of lights were warranted, the cyclists where using lights;
  • Lycra was the dominant choice of clothing, with 66% of the riders reporting they where wearing cycling specific clothing of this type.

I found this study interesting as one area of concern for me as a cyclist didn’t come to the fore: that is roundabouts which where scene of only two crashes (3% of cases). The other interesting aspect is the issue of close passing when travelling in a straight line. Closing passing resulting in a crash represents 11% of cases which is of concern as this is a driver behaviour which appears to be widely reported (e.g., in this thread at the Australian Cycling Forum it is a common compliant) and is one which in Western Australia, the WA Police will not act on and it is one area where the RAC of WA opposes legislation to put in place stronger laws. Maybe a time for a rethink by both parties?

The full reference for the report is as follows. Interested readers can download the paper from my Dropbox at the link given.

Lindsay, V.L. (2013). Injured cyclist profile: An in-depth study of a sample of cyclists injured in road crashes in South Australia (CASR112). Adelaide, Australia: University of Adelaide, Centre for Automotive Safety Research.

* The image used in this post has been sourced from Adelaide Now

10 Responses to Profiling Cyclists Injured in Crashes: South Australian Data

  1. Mark Heydon 22 April 2013 at 12:41 PM #

    Thanks for the article. They are very interesting findings.
    It is amazing that average cycling distances were 10,000 km p.a. I cycle nearly every day and maybe get up to 6,000 km p.a. So we are talking about very very experienced cyclists involved in serious crashes in general. I guess people cycling those types of distances are much more exposed to the risk of injury causing crash than the average person, even though their per km crash rate may be lower.

    A question I’d have is if 79% were deemed the motor vehicle at fault, how does the remaining 21% break down? First instinct is to say 21% the cyclist’s fault, but I wonder how many of the 21% are no one deemed at fault or single vehicle accidents? The only crashes I’ve had in 17 years of cycle commuting have been 100% my own fault by virtue of me being the only vehicle involved. It would be interesting to know how many times cyclists are at fault to have some counter to the (in my view unwarranted) stereotype that cyclists are reckless.

    Also interesting is the lack of action on close passes. Compare this to the zealousness with which more and more draconian pool fencing requirements are introduced when the numbers are probably comparable.

    • Andrew Priest 23 April 2013 at 9:36 PM #

      No data I am afraid IIRC with regards to the other 21% but I could be wrong there. The paper is linked to if you wish to read it 🙂

  2. Bob Moore 22 April 2013 at 4:35 PM #

    Is the sample of cyclists representative of general population if they did10000 km a year? A good conversation going on on on this report.

    • Andrew Priest 23 April 2013 at 9:34 PM #

      I don’t believe the authors are suggesting it is representative of the general population rather than are reporting on what was observed given context of the study. That said I wouldn’t considered 10,000 km to be extreme for regular commuters.

  3. JonBays 23 April 2013 at 7:25 PM #

    Sad state of affairs that car drivers just don’t care about anything except big truck and busses everyone else watch out for yourself.


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