Bike crashes on the rise: researchers

Wendouree Parade after cyclist Christian Ashby was seriously injured in a hit-run on Good Friday, 2016. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
Wendouree Parade after cyclist Christian Ashby was seriously injured in a hit-run on Good Friday, 2016. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

A shocking study has found Victorian roads are becoming increasingly dangerous for cyclists following a string of highly publicised smashes in Ballarat.

The paper, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, said the total number of deaths and serious injuries involving cyclists more than doubled between 2007-15, rising from 64 to 141 cases.

The revelation comes just months after well-known cyclist and father Luke Taylor was almost killed in a collision with a ute at Cardigan in May.

He has spent months recovering at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne.

And in April, Rebekah Stewart, 24, was jailed for six years for fleeing the scene after she hit cyclist and father Christian Ashby at Lake Wendouree on Good Friday, 2016.

Indeed, there was an 8 per cent increase per year for serious injury cases involving cyclists, according to data recorded by the Victorian State Trauma Registry and the National Coronial Information System.

This was despite the number of overall road deaths declining between 2007-2018.

By 2015, there was the same number of serious injury cases involving cyclists as there was involving pedestrians.

Matthew Kaess, who heads up local cycling group Ballarat Roadies, said he was not surprised about the spike in cyclist injuries.

“It all comes down to more bikes being on the road,” he said.

“But with more cyclists there has been little thought given to infrastructure.

“There needs to be more consideration of other road users when designing new roads, it could be something like a dedicated bike lane along Dana Street to get people off Mair Street.”

Lead researcher, Monash University's Dr Ben Beck, estimated that the cost linked to all road traffic injuries had exceeded $14 billion between 2007-15.

He warned the state government's target of reducing serious injuries by 15 per cent between 2016 and 2020 would be difficult to meet, with the number of serious road traffic injuries so far failing to improve.

Bicycle Network's chief executive Craig Richards hosed down fears about lack of safety for cyclists, saying there was just a 0.001 per cent chance of a cyclist being involved in a crash that requires hospitalisation.

But Mr Kaess said this would be of little comfort to Mr Taylor and Mr Ashby, who were hospitalised and included in that 0.001 per cent.

Mr Richards said most bike crashes happen on roads dominated by cars and the increase in death and injury involving cyclists could be, at least partly, put down to an increase in their numbers.

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