Why traffic accidents with cyclists are becoming increasingly more common
The bicycle is a cheap and ecological vehicle, and it is also a healthy transportation option. The number of cyclists in cities has increased in recent years, and so has the accident rate. A study confirms that these incidents are caused by a combination of inadequate infrastructure and risk behaviour on the part of drivers and cyclists.
Over the last 30 years, in both the European Union and Spain, the number of traffic accidents has decreased considerably. However, accidents with cyclists have not followed the same trend, and have consistently risen.
From 2007 to 2016 in Spain, 47,574 cyclists were involved in accidents, both minor and serious, and 656 were killed. In 2016, of the 1,810 people who died in traffic accidents in Spain, 67 were cyclists. In addition, 7,371 were injured to a greater or lesser degree.
"Given the characteristics of the vehicle and the little-used passive safety measures, cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users in the event of an accident," said Sergio Alejandro Useche, a researcher at INTRAS, the Traffic Research and Road Safety Institute of the University of Valencia.
The researchers report 70.7 percent of accidents and 67.4 percent of injuries or deaths of victims happen in urban centres, compared to rural roads, where 29.3 percent of accidents and 32.6 percent of the victims have been recorded. And 47.2 percent of serious injuries to cyclists occur on conventional urban roads.
In order to understand the increase in incidents with cyclists and be able to develop preventive policies, a study led by Useche has analyzed the relationship of roads´ and human factors with traffic accidents. The results, published in Sustainability, show that in the crashes between motorized vehicles and bicycles, both factors are present. This data could be used to explain and prevent road accidents.
Road safety education is lacking
The researchers conducted an online survey in which they interviewed 1,064 cyclists (38.8 percent women and 61.2 percent men) of about 33 years of age on average, from 20 countries in Europe, South America and North America. According to Useche, the increase in accidents with cyclists is due to "the massive use of bicycles, which is currently still in a state of disorder, poorly controlled and regulated, and rarely linked to the education and road training of its users."
Scientists emphasize the need to modify infrastructure to reduce problematic interactions occurring when cyclists share roadways with pedestrians and drivers. They also advise simplifying circulation on "friendlier" roads and strengthening the culture of bicycle use and its respect among road users.
Researchers have also observed that traffic codes are noted for "a worrying lack of regulations to regulate the use of bicycles whenever they share mobility with other types of vehicles."
Regarding individual or human factors, the study emphasizes two types of risk behaviour. The first is that of so-called errors or unintentional failures by drivers. "These can be reduced with adequate road safety training for cyclists, such as that given to drivers of motor vehicles," Useche explains.
Another type of behaviour observed in accidents is linked to traffic infractions. Experts believe it is essential to strengthen road training for cyclists and drivers. "This requires the support of the media, the institutions and the education system," say the authors, in order to improve public health and social coexistence between the different mobility systems.