What are your current Chch cycle safety concerns?

I’ve been involved in a few recent discussions with the City Council about current cycle safety issues in the city; it is of course an ongoing issue in the city. To help inform me, I thought I’d have a look at some recent crash data, and I figured that many readers might also be interested in this too.

Reported cycle crashes in Christchurch 2011-15 (click to enlarge)

Reported cycle crashes in Christchurch 2011-15 (click to enlarge)

I pulled up (from the NZTA Crash Analysis System) all reported cycle crashes in Christchurch City for the five years between 2011-15 (while some 2016 crashes will be in the system, they can take 2-3 months to all appear). Over that time, 749 cycle crashes have been reported here (including 8 fatalities); the figures produced here show them coloured-coded according to their severities (a “serious” injury usually means hospitalisation), with larger circles representing locations where multiple crashes have occurred.

749 might sound like a lot of crashes; that works out to one every 2.4 days over this period. However our travel data tells us that over the same period there were approximately 90 million cycle trips made across the city. So that is roughly one reported crash for every 120,000 trips made – not so bad odds. We have to accept however that many cycle crashes are not reported to the authorities (especially lesser/no-injury crashes or those not involving a motor vehicle), and that’s not even considering the “near misses” that many people encounter too. So the actual crash rates observed by those on the road are generally worse again; my own personal experience (2 non-injury collisions in 15 years of cycling here) bears out a higher typical “hit rate” than the official stats. If you want to improve the quality of the data we have to work with, report that crash!

There are two ways that we can tackle the cycle safety problem:

(1) Identify locations where there are a high number of crashes and identify some treatments (usually physical works) to improve that location.

(2) Identify common crash factors/behaviours that are prevalent across a wide number of crashes around the city and identify some treatments (usually education or promotional) to improve that particular issue.

Considering the first approach, there are some clear problem spots that seem worthy of attention, and perhaps not where you might expect. Which location has the highest number of reported crashes in five years? That dubious honour goes to the Colombo/Centaurus/Cashmere/Dyers Pass roundabout with 8 crashes (including 4 serious ones). The Stanmore Rd / Hereford St roundabout is next (7 crashes), followed by two sites each on Whiteleigh Ave and Moorhouse Ave with 5 crashes apiece.

Zooming in we can see some clear problem locations

Zooming in we can see some clear problem locations (click to enlarge)

Whiteleigh Ave in fact features quite strongly as a problem corridor stretching from Barrington St all the way through to Straven Rd. Post-quake this route saw notable increases in both cycle and motor vehicle numbers, and the central part along Clarence St has no cycle facilities to speak of. The eastern end of Riccarton Rd also has a high crash rate; fortunately that is being addressed by the bus priority works along there. It is perhaps not surprising that many of the highest crash corridors are popular for cycling but don’t have any cycle facilities (or very constrained ones); the section of Papanui Rd through Merivale is another case in point.

Turning our attention to common cycle crash factors and, contrary to popular belief, getting hit from behind is not the biggest safety issue – most of your main problems are from traffic in front of you (e.g. 57% of crashes are “crossing/turning” movements). The top categories of factors identified (NB: can have more than one listed) are:

  • “Poor observation” (55%)
  • “Failed to give way or stop” (55%)
  • “Incorrect lane or position” (18%)
Unlike this poster, not everyone is happy getting squeezed like this... (c/ CCC)

Unlike this poster, not everyone is happy getting squeezed like this… (c/ CCC)

I haven’t teased out here the relative attribution of faults to either party. We know that drivers are deemed to be fully or partly at fault in about 2/3 of all crashes, but clearly that doesn’t make the cycling party always blameless. I suspect that “poor observation” is mostly a bad habit of drivers whereas “failing to give way” may have a greater number of cyclists also guilty of this. The prevalence of “incorrect lane/position” probably correlates with many cyclists’ sense of motor vehicles passing them too closely, but it may also relate to cyclists being in the wrong place when making a particular manoeuvre.

Interestingly, trucks and buses don’t feature too highly in our cycle crashes (only ~6%), although we do know that they are often involved in some of the more serious incidents (like two fatalities in 2014). For all the purported concern about cyclists and pedestrians colliding, there are only four such crashes recorded in the database over 5 years. Most of the other statistics don’t really surprise me given the relative levels of cycling exposure in each case; e.g. 18% of crashes in dark/twilight conditions, 11% in wet weather, 64% at intersections.

While cycle crashes are a relatively small (and thankfully rare) part of our lives, they still merit some consideration of how things could be made better. Some of that might involve physical works (including the much-heralded Major Cycleways), while there may also be a need for educational or promotional initiatives as well to tackle common problems that are more widespread.

What cycle safety issues should City Council focus on?


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  • Stephen
    26 April 2016, 10:25 am

    On my daily commute one thing that really bugs me is cycle lanes that abruptly transition into parked cars on the shoulder, and cycle lanes that are interrupted just before an intersection so that you can’t get to the advance stop boxes without squeezing between two lanes of cars. Classic example, intersection of Seddon and Brougham. Heading along Seddon into town in the morning, it is often impossible to reach the advance stop box. Then, when you get to the other side, the cycle lane stops suddenly, and you need to pull sharply to the right, risking getting caught by cars maintaining their line.

    In that same little area, something that happens often is that cars are queued up at a major intersection, and the queue crosses an intersection with a side street. A car will turn through the gap in the queue to access the side street, often waved on by a helpful driver maintaining the gap, and cut straight in front of a cyclist — they can’t see us, we can’t see them until too late. Not sure what design changes could prevent this, but I am now extremely cautious whenever I see such a gap in a queue of cars.

    When I used to bike Papanui Road a lot, I was often confronted by delivery and trade vehicles blocking the cycle lane, and because the median is wide in many places, effectively squeezing a bike into car traffic. Would love to see council enforce parking regs more strictly on people who are "just there for a minute" or treating being a tradie as a license to park wherever they like. I’d be curious to know how many crashes on Papanui Road, Lincoln Road, Whiteleigh have this kind of thing as a contributing factor.

    • Stephen@Stephen
      1 May 2016, 7:59 pm

      That should have read "Selwyn" not "Seddon", of course. Brain fart.

  • Tobi
    26 April 2016, 12:39 pm

    Apart from the usual intersection issues (thankfully usually you can spot them before something happens), my main gripe are cars running red lights (yes, cyclists do this a lot as well but they usually put themselves in danger, not someone else, and we don’t bike at 50-60 km/h). I keep reporting the ones I see on my commute to police (bad driver form) and hope that it will show up in some statistics and make a difference one day. I have a feeling that NZ and chch aren’t very keen on red light cameras or speed cameras, though.

    On a more positive note, it is amazing how much safer and nicer a street feels to pedestrians and cyclists now that the cbd has a speed limit of 30.

  • Cyclomaniac
    29 April 2016, 8:00 pm

    My least favorite roads to cycle on would be Bealey Ave, Ferry Rd (western end), and although I do cycle on it I am not a huge fan of Yaldhurst Rd cycling facilities (City side) as the cycle path always seems to disappear when you need it most! I look forward to see cycling improvements on Riccarton Rd. There are also numerous wide suburban streets which could be made a bit safer (or more pleasant to cycle on) just by painting solid white lines which remains a cost-effective measure.

    • Stephen@Cyclomaniac
      1 May 2016, 8:02 pm

      Let’s add Fitzgerald Ave to the main routes that need a cycle lane. Because of Barbadoes being one way, it’s quite a long way to find a parallel route, and even then, Madras is pretty shit too.

  • Magdalena Lorenzo
    2 May 2016, 9:48 am

    Thank you Lenny for the article. Interesting data there.

    On my daily commute my main worry is the car that makes a sudden turn left, and crosses my path (even when I’m ahead of the car and on a cycle lane) causing inevitable, and so far, a near miss. I confronted one driver once and her reaction was even more troubling than the actual incorrect maneuver. She fail to recognised that anything wrong was done :).

    I would like to have a quick way of reporting. Should we develop an app? (what else in this age, right?) that can quickly collect data than can be then sent to the Police.

    I would also like to see some TV add regarding this. We are lacking relevant presence in road safety campaigns. Happy to lobby on this if others are interested in this topic too.

    Safe trips to all.

  • Jim
    2 May 2016, 1:25 pm

    Northcote Rd heading West from the QE2 Drive/Main N Rd cross roads scares me. The two traffic lanes merge into one as they exit the crossing, there’s a sharp narrowing of the road form the bike lane side and the bike lane shrinks in width, all almost at the same point. This junction is off your map so can’t see if it has a bad accident record.

    • retro
      2 May 2016, 8:14 pm

      It’s shown on the first map, where it would suggest that there might be a couple of minor injury crashes there.

    • velocipede@Jim
      15 May 2016, 11:36 pm

      There are way too many intersections which reduce from two lanes "this side" to to one lane the "other side" and which are only marginally safe for cars on the merging side but a trial in cyclist confidence and resolve, not to mention safety. A two lane approach to an intersection may be two times the car park and effective use of limited road space in a sense and when vehicles are stationary but come the other side when vehicles are mobile and two lanes become its usually a merging problem from hell at peak traffic flows. And that’s just for motorists. Cyclists be damned in the typical estimation as its still as if most cyclists are tacitly instructed to bugger off by the brute force of road design on most busy roads most of the time.

      When a lane is designated as straight through as well as turning we as cyclists are advised by the Road Code to "take the lane" straight through but I have to admit that in examples such as the below I have been more timid in doing so than I have wished and put up with motor vehicles passing by far closer than ideal – competitively merging in the do or die race to get to the next red light or compulsory stop 1.38 seconds faster they the other guy or gal.

      The merge from QEII Dr to Northcote Rd westward from Main North Rd is one partcularly instructive example too bad already mentioned. Main North Rd. southward past Cranford St another. Grahams Rd northward over Memorial Ave, Grahams Rd northward over Wairakei Rd, Linwood Ave eastward over Hargood St-Keighleys Rd and Ferry Rd westward over Hargood-Radley Sts are others. That’s just off the top of my head. Just to begin…



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