Study prompts safety precautions for cyclists

July 27, 2012

Interviews with cyclists hospitalised following road crashes have reinforced the importance of measures such as wearing helmets and bike lights, and better interaction between all road users.

The Monash Alfred Cycle Crash Study (MACCS), a between Monash University, Alfred Health, VicRoads, and Bayside and Kingston City councils, examined the causes and outcomes of crashes involving 158 cyclists presenting to the Emergency Departments of Sandringham Hospital and the Alfred over a 12 month period.

Comprehensive interviews with participating cyclists and an in-depth analysis of the causes and injury outcomes were conducted to help inform more effective crash counter-measures. 

Cyclists answered a range of questions covering all aspects of their cycling experience including health and demographic details, distance ridden, bicycle, clothing, road conditions  and events leading up to and during the crash. Their injuries were also recorded. 

Lead researcher and emergency physician, Dr. Paul Biegler, of both Monash University where he is a Research Fellow in Human Bioethics, and Alfred Health, said the results highlighted a number of key aspects contributing to crashes.

"We found that the use of bicycle lights was protective, independent of time of day, with cyclists failing to use lights having a threefold increased likelihood of serious injury, compared to cyclists using lights," Dr. Biegler said.

"This suggests that greater cyclist visibility allows those involved in a collision more time to take avoidance action, reducing impact severity."

Nearly half of cyclists sustained impact to the head during crashes, evidenced by damage to their . Further, chances of head injury increased threefold with speeds above 20 km per hour, and increased fivefold with speeds above 30 km per hour.

"These findings reinforce the benefits of helmet wearing, especially for cyclists travelling at speed," Dr. Biegler said.

One third of the crashes involved collisions with cars and just under half of those cars were parked.

"Crashes into the open door of a parked car, or 'dooring' accounted for six per cent of all crashes," Dr. Biegler said.

"Encouraging safe interactions between and vehicles through education, road design, and traffic regulations is of vital importance."

MACCS did not include third-party interviews, necessarily excluding fatal . Dr Biegler said the study, conducted as a pilot, had contributed important insights, but that further research was needed.

Explore further: 7 of 10 commuters using Capital Bikeshare forgo helmet use

More information: A full copy of the report is available from the Monash University Injury Research Institute website.

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not rated yet Jul 27, 2012
These findings reinforce the benefits of helmet wearing

Where I'm from, statistically speaking, you'd have to hospitalize yourself by bicycle accident about 12 times before you run a proper risk of having a serious head injury - without a helmet. Not riding your bicycle drunk would further reduce the chances by a third.

The figures won't be the same for where you live, but still, the case for helmets is pretty much overblown as far as I can see. Of course, when you have millions of cyclists, there will be many cases with serious head injuries, but on a personal level the risk is pretty miniscule. At least small enough that I find my hair getting messed up more bothersome.
not rated yet Jul 28, 2012
This is a classic case of asking the wrong questions and getting the wrong answer in return. The questions pre-suppose there is nothing that can be done about the actual cause of serious injury for cyclists, drivers that "don't see" cyclists until they hit the cyclist. If drivers actually can't see cyclists, how is it they see the stripes of paint on the road that directs them as to where to driver their cars? Those stripes are flat against the road, frequently of a colour that does not readily "pop out" against the colour of the pavements used to surface the road (white lane marking against white concrete for example), and in general are orders of magnitude less visible to drivers that the majority of cyclists. If drivers were held accountable for hitting cyclists positioned on the roads in front of them than I guarantee that drivers would start seeing cyclists. Make an at-fault wreck with a cyclist subject to a huge fine collected by the state.
not rated yet Jul 28, 2012
If drivers were held accountable for hitting cyclists positioned on the roads in front of them than I guarantee that drivers would start seeing cyclists. Make an at-fault wreck with a cyclist subject to a huge fine collected by the state.

The problem is usually drivers making a left turn, and cutting in front of a cyclist coming in from the blind spot of the car, or a cyclist zooming onto the road from a sidewalk in an intersection etc. where there's very little time to react.

The problem is mainly the cyclists themselves though, who, like motorcyclists, seem to believe they're invincible, can fit anywhere, are seemingly blind to their own speed, and make quick random changes in trajectory because they can.

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