Why I’m in the Safer Cycling Study

Anytime I’m near a road on my bike I wish there was a giant impermeable, unbreakable wall separating me and my bike and helmet and my no other protection from the cars and trucks and buses and their wheels, engines, heavy bodies and sometimes cyclist-hating drivers. It’s a fact that cycling, particularly in urban areas, is dangerous. The degree of danger varies depending on where you ride and the type of facilities that cyclists have available to them.

On my commute to work I’m luck enough to travel on a shared pedestrian/cycle path the entire way except for two road crossing so it’s pretty safe and pedestrians and cyclists seem to co-exist very well for the most part. My only real gripe is speeding cyclists who seem to think it’s a section of the Tour de France not a shared path for commuting as well as recreational riding and walking. More on this in another post.

One of the road crossings now has lights but the other is a bit scary as it’s near a roundabout and cars are going downhill so it’s easy for them to pick up speed towards where the cycleway meets the road. On the weekend, my husband and I cycle on this path as it goes out towards the beach or in towards the inner-city where it meets the new separated cycleways that are being built in Sydney city.

I have been part of the University of New South Wales Safer Cycling Study. It aims to  learn about when, where and why people cycle, and the risks, hazards, near misses and crashes that people experience while cycling. They reckon that there’s just not enough information about cyclists and these issues in NSW.

Each couple of months I fill out a cycling diary detailing where I’ve ridden with distances and times along with details of any crashes or near misses I’ve been a part of. I’m happy to say I haven’t had to report any crashes, just a few near misses. Hopefully the study will be used to find out the safest places to ride and be used to lobby state governments and local council to put money into better riding facilities.

Follow this link if you want to find out a bit more about it: Safer Cycling Study.

If you’re interested in safe cycling, here are some links to websites with helpful info.

Safe Cycling Australia grassroots campaign and lobby group.

The Times has a Cities Fit for Cycling campaign promoting safe riding in London.

Bicycle Safe has tips on staying safe.

Citizens for Safe Cycling is a good example of community organisation promoting bike safety.

3 Feet Please is a campaign to promote a rule for safe cycling distances.

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8 thoughts on “Why I’m in the Safer Cycling Study

  1. One of the good things about Spain is some new traffic laws that were implemented a few years ago, which includes a mandatory TWO METRE distance between a vehicle and cyclist. I think the only time that was seriously infringed when we have been out was a by a British registered vehicle. Oh, and the woman who cut my partner up at a roundabout and nearly crashed into him. A definite near miss, only avoided by his quick reactions.

    The other good thing here is the cycling community is very supportive. People will always stop to see if you are ok, and they whip out their mobiles in a flash.

    right, I need to take some time to read back through your posts :)

    • We certainly need more supportive drivers here in Sydney and a mandatory two metre rule would be very helpful but the outcry is the state government tried to introduce it would be horrendous! The new conservative government even threatened to rip out our new cycleways. So far this hasn’t happened and we’re awaiting their ‘active ‘transport’ masterplan to see what they have to say about cycling facilities. We wait, we hope.

  2. Cheers, Ros – it’s a good study; I’m in it as well.

    One further point for you and others (because this is a bit of a hobby horse of mine, so forgive me :-) – if you *do* end up in any incidents, don’t just report them to the study, report them to the cops as well. Basically, all this sort of information becomes data to them and, because of the way the police monitor their stats at both station level and higher up, anything that starts to trend in one direction or another (like, say, an apparent increase in the number of cycling incidents) becomes an occasion for a ‘please explain’ and a consideration of resource (re)allocation.

    In short, say that you are prepared to make a statement (and, if it comes to that, go to court), have as much detail as possible to hand (date, time, place, vehicle rego), ask for a COPS (police computer system) number and, if you aren’t satisfied with the response you get, ask to speak to the duty sergeant or supervising officer.

    Safe riding!

    • Hi Michelle, thanks for the comments. Good suggestion. I have never thought about going to the police, but will certainly keep that in mind. Some riders I see ride with a camera on their helmet and I wonder if one of the reasons is in case of any incidents they have some video of what happened. A story in the weekend’s SMH talked about this in relation to an incident in Centennial Park where the cyclist was shown to be in the right, partly due to the video footage and partly due to an expert witness (safe cycling instructor) in his group.

  3. I always love hearing about new initiatives to make cycling safer, here in the USA and around the world. I am the founder of the “3 Feet Please” campaign and we are all about making cycling safer and saving cyclists’ lives. We do this by encouraging states to adopt “3 Feet Please” laws and using those laws as tools to help educate motorists on how to pass cyclists safely from the rear. The good news is we have 20 states with “3 Feet Please” laws. Hopefully, California will mecome the 21st state very soon. In states that have dropped the ball, cities and counties have picked up the ball and passed ordinances requiring the distance. Ouside the USA we have helped cycling advocates pass “1 Metre Laws”.

    To help us in our advocacy, cyclists can purchase jerseys with the message “3 Feet Please” or “1 Metre Please” on the back. This jersey is being worn by cyclists across the world, from Boston to Singapore to Quebec to Brazil to London to Israel. Cyclists are spreading the message as they ride and overwhelmingly, they report back that the jersey is making a difference: motorists are giving them more space more often…and that’s the great news.

    You’re probably wondering about the enforcement of these laws. Unquestionably, this law is very difficult to enforce, I didn’t say impossible…just difficult. But, the true value of this law isn’t found in its enforceabilty…the true value is found in its use as a tool for educating motorists. The absolutely best news is most motorists are indeed very respectful and responsible. The last thing they want to do is hurt anyone while driving. Like us cyclsists they want to get where they are going safely and they welcome advise on how to do that better. Helping motorists understand that they need to give cyclists at least 3 feet clearance when passing from the rear is more often welcomed than rejected.

    Good to hear about this study and thank you for participating. I look forward to hearing the results on your blog.

    Thank you,
    Joe Mizereck

    • Hi Joe, thanks for your contribution. Education is the key, isn’t it. The 3 Feet Please is a simple but powerful reminder, so congratulations to you for starting this campaign. I think I will do a blog post on this topic soon. I might also get myself one of those jerseys! Cyclists have good reason to be worried about safety and you don’t truly appreciate this until you get out of your car and onto your bike on the roads. We have issues here in Sydney with growing acceptance of bike riders. I stick to bike paths and cycleways as it’s safer and a nicer ride. Cheers, Ros

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