How to Improve Cyclist Safety
Protecting bicycle riders in Tasmania requires a raft of improvements. In summary, these improvements are in the areas of:
- Infrastructure - Transport infrastructure that provides separation between bicycles and motor vehicles;
- Education – Promote respect and understanding between road users, including the specific need for giving adequate space when overtaking people riding bikes;
- Training - More cycle-aware driver training and testing;
- Legislation - Reduction of speed limits in urban and peri-urban areas; Increase in penalties;
- Enforcement - More effective policing of traffic offences, especially those around impaired driving such as mobile phone use, drink driving or dangerous driving.
Here are the key strategies required in Tasmania to eliminate (or reduce) the risks of severe injuries and fatalities:
1. Continuation of the Vulnerable Road User Program:
The Vulnerable Road User Program is by far the most important with respect to road safety and reducing crash statistics involving cyclists because expensive improvements to infrastructure are required alongside education, enforcement and training.
2. Best practice infrastructure:
This is particularly important in the context of the current trial of requiring a minimum overtaking distance of 1 metre on roads less than 60 kph and 1.5 metres on roads of more than 60 kph. Roads that have high numbers of cyclists will require shoulder sealing to enable sufficient space, especially on uphill sections where riders are particularly slow compared with motorised traffic, or where the speed is more than 60kph.
3. Adequate funding to properly implement the Safe System approach:
Along with all other States and Territories, Tasmania has adopted a Safe System approach towards road safety. This approach recognises that humans, as road users, are fallible and will make mistakes which will result in crashes. It requires that road infrastructure is designed to take account of these errors and vulnerabilities to reduce the risk of serious injury.
4. Continuation of the Safer Rural Travel Speeds initiative:
Ongoing encouragement and facilitation for councils to post lower speed limits on particular roads that are high use for cyclists. Initial councils to target would be West Tamar, Meander Valley, most of the Cradle Coast councils, Hobart and Kingborough.
5. Continued Police enforcement and education programs that target inattention:
Drivers who have hit a cyclist often report that they did not see the rider. This is a complex matter that can involve a psychological blind spot (driver not registering the presence of a cyclist because they are scanning for other motor vehicles), as well as obvious problems such as mobile phone use. This falls under both enforcement and education.
6. Mandatory testing of learner drivers around road rules and cyclists:
Support the development and updating of the road rules with respect to cyclists and mandatory questions in the learner driver test on interactions between cyclists and drivers and use of bike lanes.
7. Trial Bike Education in schools:
Children need to be taught bike handling skills as well as road rules. In Victoria, more than 60% of children get bike education at school. Particular schools offer ongoing mentoring because of a growing proportion of children getting to school via wheeled transport (scooters, bicycles, skateboards). We suggest linking with a nationally recognised and supported program: Ride2School.
Re the "A Metre Matters" campaign:
Other countries, such as the Netherlands and parts of the United States, have a one metre minimum overtaking distance law enacted in addition to other supporting measures. Internationally these other measures have included: reduced car access to city centres and creation of car-free spaces; construction of cycle paths and reducing road space for cars; facilitating riding through bicycle network planning, road design, signalling, training and education, parking and enforcement: and reducing maximum speed in central urban areas to 30 kph or less.
In order for the legislation to work on Tasmanian roads, the proposed change would need to be accompanied by a significant boost to the infrastructure budget for cycling-related projects and an increase in Tasmania Police resources for enforcement of several regulations relating to cyclist safety, including mobile phone use by drivers and other causes of inattention.
For those who would like to read the Bicycle Tasmania position paper in more detail, you can find it at this link.