March 4, 2010 – 1:53PM Comments 117
The number of cyclists on Melbourne’s roads has soared by up to 50 per cent during peak hour in the past year, according to new figures.
The biggest increases were recorded in Fitzroy and on the Yarra Trail, according to an audit of cyclists conducted by the state’s peak cycling body Bicycle Victoria.
The organisation monitored the number of cyclists on key routes into Melbourne’s CBD between 7am and 9am on Tuesday.
Initial figures revealed increases of between 12 and 50 per cent on routes across the city, Bicycle Victoria spokesman Garry Brennan said.
But the count came as Victorian cyclists experienced a particularly bad day on the roads, with paramedics called to 14 separate accidents in 24 hours yesterday – seven of them in just one hour.
Cyclists were left with broken arms and collarbones in the accidents, most of which occurred in morning peak hour.
The youngest injured was a six-year-old boy who suffered bruising swelling to his forehead, while the oldest was an 87-year-old man who injured his leg when he fell from his bike.
“We know there are collisions and crashes on a frequent basis involving bikes,” Mr Brennan said.
“Many of them don’t involve cars, people might just fall off.”
But he said it was natural that the number cycling injuries would rise in line with a jump in the number of people taking up cycling.
Initial figures from Bicycle Victoria’s count revealed 1795 cyclists passed through the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets in the city between 7am and 9am. That was a rise of 25 per cent compared to the previous year.
At the corner of Napier and Johnston streets in Fitzroy there a 51 per cent increase was recorded, which Bicycle Victoria attributed in part to the installation of bike priority traffic signals at the intersection.
At the corner of Brunswick Street and Victoria Parade, numbers were up 21 per cent to 687 cyclists.
The number of cyclists jumped 50 per cent to 1407 at the junction of the Yarra Trail and the Gardiners Creek Trail, however Mr Brennan said that figure may have been skewed by a diversion in place during last year’s count.
A detailed analysis of the figures was not expected until the end of next month.
The crashes come as bicycle sales boom and cycling is promoted as a healthy, environmentally friendly alternative to the car.
“The statistics show us that the rate of accidents is actually declining as the number of riders goes up,” Mr Brennan said.
“There appears to be a safety-in-numbers effect in play. It looks as though other road users are becoming used to seeing large numbers of bike riders on the road. They’re more aware and they adjust their driving accordingly.”
Marilyn Johnson, a researcher at Monash University’s Accident Research Centre, said the rate of cycling accidents generally declined when the cycling population increased.
In countries such as the Netherlands – where a 2009 government study found bicycles are used for a quarter of all journeys – the sheer number of cyclists meant they were easily visible.
‘‘Drivers (in the Netherlands) are also likely to also be cyclists themselves, so they know know how much space a cyclist needs on the road,’’ she said.
‘‘Our drivers don’t necessarily expect to see cyclists and don’t have an understanding of what it means to be a cyclist.’’
Ms Johnson said many European countries were also well equipped with cycle paths and other cycling facilities, resulting in fewer injuries.
‘‘The biggest thing (in Australia) is there needs to be political will to take space currently used by cars away from them and give it to cyclists,’’ she said.