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Fresh Facts: Cars as safety hazard, bicycles as casualties

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Traffic accidents involving cyclists analysed following Radlobby-inquiry to BMVIT and KfV. In April 2017, a list of questions compiled by Cycle Competence member Radlobby Austria sent to the Austrian traffic ministry BMVIT revealed new facts on cycle traffic and hazardous situations: The safety hazard for cyclists definitely is the car, as shown by the statistics supplied by Statistics Austria and analysed by the KfV (Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit, a non-profit research organization): In three out of four traffic accidents with injured cyclists involving another vehicle or person car drivers caused the accident. 51% of drivers ran a red light or ignored a cyclist’s right of way. This adds up to around 1,300 times a red light or a right of way was ignored leaving a cyclist injured. Cyclists were only responsible for 357 of such offences (42%).

Source: KfV based on police data provided by Statistics Austria 2012-2015 (all accidents with bodily injury involving a cyclist in that period all over Austria)

Detailed findings 2012-2015

Accidents involving a single vehicle (30% of the total number) make up a significant share of the cycling accidents – not counting off-road sports accidents (i.e. mountain biking). Of the remaining 70% of accidents involving at least one other party 30% happen on intersections. A mere 6% are accidents involving pedestrians.

An analysis of the accidents involving cyclists sorted by tempo limit (average 2012-2015) shows 75% of the accidents happen at speeds of more than 30 km/h. Of those 86% happen within town limits. There is a clear connection between tempo and severity of injury: Above 60 km/h over one third (33%) of injured are seriously injured, 3% are dead. At tempo 30 only 15% are seriously injured and 84% slightly inured. These facts are clearly supporting Radlobby’s demand to lower speed limits to 30 km/h in towns and 80 km/h on rural roads.

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Looking at the traffic facilities with the highest accident rates: Out of 2,875 accidents around 800 happened on different types of cycle lanes, only 30 accidents in pedestrian zones. This refutes public opinion that cycling in pedestrian zones is dangerous while cycle lanes as such are safe. Cycle lanes need good lines of sight, sufficient width and good solutions for intersections to be safe.

The most accident-prone areas are mixed pedestrian and cycle lanes on which 7.1% of the accidents happened. Of those 30% were accidents with only one party involved, in 14% of the other accidents the parties involved were on foot and 25% of the accidents involved a car. This means there is no above-average threat to pedestrians on these lanes. However, this type of traffic facility should be avoided given the general accident frequency and the constant level of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

Cycle crossings, on which cyclist generally have right of way, takes third place in the ranking of accident-prone sites calculated on an annual average (313, 4.7%). 76% of the parties involved in accidents on these crossings are cars. This result not only casts doubts on the protective function of these crossings but also the traffic behaviour of drivers. 253 accidents (3,8%, again based on an annual average) happened on intersections with traffic lights. Again in almost three quarters (69%) of accidents on these intersections drivers were the guilty party.

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Cars: often ignoring right of way

Cars are mainly responsible for accidents involving a motorised vehicle with an overall number of 3,380 accidents. Three quarters (2,532) of those accidents resulting in personal injuries were caused by drivers, 858 by cyclists.

The analysis also showed an extreme ratio in the violations of traffic priorities: car drivers caused 4.5 times more accidents by not yielding to traffic which had the right of way*: 18.2% of 6,689 accidents were caused by drivers ignoring traffic priorities, only 4.2% by cyclists doing the same. After removing single-vehicle accidents, 51% of accidents (around 1,300) include a violation of the right of way by a driver. In accidents caused by cyclists such violations accounted for 42% (357) of the accidents.

“Dooring”, the much debated cause for accidents, i.e. opening car doors careless leading to injured cyclists, accounted for 210 accidents on an annual average (of 6,689 in total).

Accidents with non-motorised traffic participants, i.e. mainly pedestrians, reveal a surprising balance: At a 589:599 ratio fewer cyclists than pedestrians caused such accidents. 20% violations of the right of way and 40% inattention were equally distributed between cycle and pedestrian traffic.

*Main parties responsible for accidents: This fact is based on policemen attributing the blame for an accident on site, not by court decisions at a later stage. Such verdicts are not available as collected data.

Download full report (in german):

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Posted on April 27, 2017