The information contained on this page comes from page 24 of the discussion paper "Power-assisted Pedal Cycles: Proposal for a new AB vehicle definition" prepared by the NSW Centre for Road Safety, a division of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). References are listed at the foot of the page.
Jacobsen (2003)(2) found that:
- The likelihood that a given person walking or bicycling will be struck by a motorist varies inversely with the amount of walking or bicycling overall. This pattern is consistent across communities of varying size, from specific intersections to cities and countries, and across time periods.
- A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle. Policies that increase the numbers of people walking and bicycling appear to be an effective route to improving the safety of people walking and bicycling.
Robinson (2005)27 verified if Australian data followed the same rule showed by overseas research where fatality and injury risks per cyclist and pedestrian are lower when there are more cyclists and pedestrians. It was found that as with overseas data, the exponential growth rule fits Australian data well. If cycling doubles, the risk per kilometre falls by about 34%; conversely, if cycling halves, the risk per kilometre will be about 52% higher.
This find is unequivocal. The more cycles on the road, the safer it is for all cyclists. The key objective is to get cyclists safely onto the road and that will only occur if there is high utility value for individual riders, ie cycle speeds within acceptable competency bounds and a wide range of vehicle types to meet a range of rider needs.
The RTA Proposal fails to meet this core safety objective.
Litman and Fitzroy (2005)28 found that as non-motorised travel increases in a community, both total per capita traffic casualty rates and per-mile pedestrian and cyclist crash rates tend to decline. …In summary, although non-motorised travel is more hazardous to users per mile of travel, for various reasons increased non-motorised travel tends to reduce total traffic risk in a community.
Greater London Authority (2007)29 states that Transport for London is making real progress improving safety for cyclists. Against an increase of 83 per cent in cycling since 2000, the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on London's roads has fallen by 28 per cent compared with the Government's baseline figures from the mid to late 1990s.
Relevance to PAPCs
Firstly, the most common type of serious bicycle crash involves motor vehicles, where the two most common types are collisions at intersections and bicycles being hit from behind while travelling in the same direction. It may be suggested that an increase speed capability of PAPC on hills may reduce the speed differential between motor vehicles and bicycles therefore reducing the severity of crashes where cyclists are hit from behind. However, the factors for these crashes cited in ATSB (2006) (failed to observe the cyclist, influence of alcohol or drugs and the driver’s vision obscured) do not lead to the assumption that the likelihood of such crashes would decrease with a decrease in speed differential between motor vehicles and cyclists.
Secondly, a variety of sources present crashes between cyclists and pedestrians as a ‘rare occurrence’, which is supported by crash data from NSW: an analysis of pedestrian crashes in NSW between 1997 and 2007 reveals that 3 pedestrians were killed and another 334 were injured following a collision involving a cyclist but no motor vehicle, which represents 0.29% of pedestrians killed and 1.16% of pedestrians injured in all crashes during the same period. While cyclist speed is a concern for pedestrians sharing their path with cyclists, the analysis summarised in this document shows that the maximum cycling speed on a flat terrain is not affected significantly, therefore the impact on both perceived and real safety for pedestrians should be minimal.
Thirdly, a potential increase in the number of cyclists due in part to an increase in product variety and assistance capability could lead to a reduction of crash rates for bicycles.
The proposed regulations that limit power-assistance to 250 watts and maximum speed to 25 km/h will have a negative effect in many places by discriminating against cyclists that have a legitimate and reasonable need for more power and/or on-road speed. These would-be cyclists are compelled to transfer to other modes of transport that are more dangerous opponents to cycles.
It must be mentioned that some studies supporting this claim saw an increase in cycling following significant investments in cycling facilities. Without a comparable improvement in cycling facilities across Australia, it is uncertain if the potential increase in cycling and related crash rate reduction will occur.
(1) Source: Birk M., Geller R., 2007 On-street Bikeways and Off-Street Trails: An Integrated Approach: Overview, State of Oregon, United States
(2) Jacobsen P.L., 2003 Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling, Injury Prevention, Vol.9, p.205-209