Safer cycling in the urban environment

The importance of cycling to achieve sustainable transport and national health goals is recognised by governments nationally and internationally. Bicycles are an environmentally sustainable mode of transport that can generate significant health, environment and economic benefits, when substituted for car travel. Despite the many benefits of cycling, cyclists are physically vulnerable road users, especially when they share the road with motorised vehicles.

To date, much of the research into cyclist safety in Australia has focused on behaviour, with less research focus on the impacts of the urban transport environment on cyclist safety. Internationally there has been substantial research into how the urban environment can be enhanced to improve cyclist safety. However there is a need for a greater understanding of the Australian transport system and the improvements needed to create a safer cycling environment are essential if cyclists are to be safe and cycling participation targets set by current federal government policies, doubling the cycling participation rate between 2011 and 2016, are to be achieved.

The aim of the study is to propose modifications to the urban road environment that will reduce injuries to cyclists. The specific objectives of the research are:

  • To describe the contributing factors to cyclist crashes in urban road environments
  • Identify features of the urban road environment that increases the risk of a cyclist crash
  • To develop road infrastructure prototypes that improves cyclists’ safety
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the prototypes in a bicycle simulator (BikeSim)

The study will use a combination of in-depth bicycle crash investigations and innovative naturalistic cycling methods to generate unique datasets of crash-involved and non-crash-involved cyclist experiences with a comparison of these extending our knowledge of the factors that contribute to cyclist crashes and injury risk.

Findings from the analysis of existing cyclist crash data and the naturalistic cycling study will inform prototypes of new road designs. These prototypes will be evaluated in a cycling simulator (BikeSim) which will develop concurrently with this project. Building the BikeSim for this project will provide a safe laboratory environment to trial and evaluate prototypes of road designs suitable for safe cycling. This testing will help to ensure any changes to the road space will achieve actual cyclist safety improvements and maximise the benefits of the financial investment in retrofitting roads.

Led by experienced scientists from Monash Injury Research Institute, this study will utilise a multi-disciplinary approach in understanding the issues surrounding cyclist safety, bringing together a strong collaborative partnership of international experts in road safety, psychology, urban design, human factors, engineering and epidemiology, with substantial support and advice from government road authorities and road safety and cycling advocacy organisations to address the safe mobility of cyclists while maintaining the mobility of other road users.