ACT News

Surging Canberra cycling injuries twice the national average, new report reveals

Canberra has become more dangerous for cyclists as the activity becomes more popular, with bike crashes surging nearly 50 per cent in just two years.

Rates of cycling injuries in the ACT are twice the national average with the ACT Chief Health Officer's Report 2014 revealing there were 110 bike crashes in 2012, which included one fatality, 26 hospital admissions and 83 cyclists who received medical treatment. 

A cyclist travels down Northbourne Avenue in Braddon in peak-hour traffic.
A cyclist travels down Northbourne Avenue in Braddon in peak-hour traffic. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Most injuries from crashes between cyclists and cars occured in the city and inner suburbs - 15 per cent happened in the CBD, 12 per cent in Turner and 10 per cent in Braddon. 

Casualties from bike crashes have risen 47 per cent since 2010 when there were 75 bicycle accidents, including two fatalities, 11 hospitalisations and 62 people receiving medical treatment. Cyclists accounted for 12.3 per cent of all road casualties in 2012, up from 9.4 per cent in 2010. 

More than half - 58 per cent - of the injured adult cyclists who attended emergency departments suffered only minor injuries, a study found. 

But the severity of a cyclist's injuries depended on the riding environment, with more severe injuries occuring on shared paths and in traffic compared with bicycle lanes. 


"The high incidence of injury due to pedal-cycle accidents is most likely due to the popularity of cycling and the availability of cycling paths in the ACT," the report said.

ACT Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said in the report the rate of cycling injuries was twice the national average and was only partially explained by higher bicycle use.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows more people are cycling in the ACT and participation in riding increased from 11.5 per cent in 2009-10 to 15.3 per cent in 2011-12 - well above the national participation rate of 6.5 per cent in 2009-10 and 7.6 per cent in 2011-12. 

The report also indicated the ACT had the highest rate of "high threat to life injury" to cyclists in the country in 2008-09, according to research from 2012.  But the threat to drivers, motorcyclists, passengers and pedestrians in the ACT was lower than national rates. 

A spokesman for Attorney-General Simon Corbell said cycling in the ACT was popular and the participation rates in the territory were higher than the national average. 

"The higher rate of injury for cyclists may be due to higher exposure with the ACT having the highest cycling participation rate in Australia," he said. 

He said about 87,000 Canberrans cycled in a typical week, while about 169,000 rode at least once a year. 

"Cycling injuries in the ACT are not just confined to road transport areas," he said.

He said a 2012 study found about 35 per cent of cyclists who presented to emergency departments were injured in off-road crashes, such as on mountain bike trails or skate parks.

Canberra Hospital emergency department clinical director Michael Hall said research into the different types of accidents involving cyclists was important. 

"We are firm believers that decreasing obesity, greater public health and exercise is a really good thing for our population, but I think it will take time for our public infrastructure to safely reflect what needs to happen to make it as safe as possible for people," he said. 

There were 8132 traffic crashes reported in the ACT in 2012 and 10 per cent of people received medical treatment, were admitted to hospital or died. Nearly half of the casualties involved people under the age of 30, but the most vulnerable group were road users aged 20 to 24, who made up 17 per cent of all crash casualties in 2012. 

The ACT government last month introduced legislation for tougher penalties for drivers who endanger cyclists and other vulnerable road users. 

Mr Corbell's spokesman said the ACT Road Safety Strategy 2011‑2020 included a number measures aimed at improving the safety of cyclists and vulnerable road users.