Cycle crashes are more than just with Motor Vehicles

When people are thinking about getting into cycling, understandably they are often particularly worried about the danger faced by motor traffic. Certainly when you look at the cycle crash stats, there have still been plenty around Christchurch. But it’s important to appreciate that sometimes risks are also faced from the places we ride as well.

That kerb lip could create a problem when riding onto this cycling route in Wgtn

In the past month I’ve been assisting with some post-construction safety audits of the recent cycleways built in Wellington. Many of the issues we have identified were based on potential risks to cyclists from motorists (or pedestrians). But we also noticed the occasional hazards simply from the way that the cycleways and associated infrastructure were built.

At night time, these planter boxes in Wgtn were not well illuminated or reflectorised

Christchurch is no exception to these risks either. You may recall how my partner came to a bit of grief last year while riding near a tram track, and even something as innocuous as pathway leaves can be problematic, but there are plenty of other potential problem spots to be wary of – and sometimes when things unexpectedly change too.

Recently I received an email from someone who had experienced an unfortunate incident on her bike:

“I am still recovering from a broken hip that resulted from me coming off my bike as I headed from Carlton Mill Rd from Rossall Street direction heading onto the bridge going to Little Hagley Park. On 2/05/24, I was cycling into town at about 6.00pm.  As I approached the access to the bridge, I realised that the Council had changed the access and, where I have previously entered, there was now a kerb. There was nothing to alert me to this change and by the time I realised there had been a change it was too late, and I hit the kerb and came off falling directly onto the footpath landing on my right hip with my e-bike falling on me. Unfortunately this resulted in my right hip fracturing. I have been riding this direction since 1997. I sent a query to the Council, but I am still waiting for a reply just about a month after sending a query (and several follow up emails).”

The entrance to Little Hagley Park before, with cycling access to the right…

“I am not sure why it was changed but it is potentially quite dangerous, as there is now not a separate area for cyclists at this intersection. Also if they do change access and put a kerb in, they should make sure that kerb is visible to the cyclist at all times… I have been cycling for approx. 60 years without incident. I never considered that the biggest risk to my safety would result from Chch City Council action.”

…and the new entrance after…

This is one really unfortunate example of what can happen if agencies don’t let people know that things have changed – for example, maybe just a few cones across the closed-up kerb for a while might have alerted people to the new layout.

I first looked into the question of “cycle-only crashes” in NZ over 20 years ago. Even now, I tend to find that the same kinds of hazards are often the main culprits:

  • Kerb lips or rail tracks crossed at an acute angle
  • Slippery or loose riding surfaces, due to mud, gravel, ice, etc
  • Other riding surface defects, including potholes, corrugations, cracks
  • Hitting solid obstructions next to (or encroaching into) a cycling route.
  • Bollards and other posts in the middle of pathways (esp. if hard to see)
Hmm, the concrete base under this pole in Wgtn probably needs some path markings to steer riders around it…

The other thing that piece of research identified back then was just how many relatively serious cycling injuries don’t get captured by our conventional crash reporting system. A couple of months ago, I did an interesting exercise where I compared police-reported data in the NZTA Crash Analysis System (CAS) with Ministry of Health (MoH) hospital admission data for Christchurch transport incidents. When looking particularly at “serious” injuries (typically those who are in hospital for at least a day), while it was not surprising that CAS data under-reported actual traffic crash casualties, it also overlooked a lot of pedestrian and cyclist injuries on roads/paths not involving another vehicle (and yes, this data excludes off-road things like mountain-biking accidents). In the case of cyclist injuries in Christchurch, CAS data apparently only picks up about one-sixth of what actually occurs.

Serious injuries in Chch – Police crash data only tells part of the story…

If you do come across a potential hazard while riding, there are a few different ways you can let Council know about it; hopefully they can address any immediate concerns. But I guess the moral of the story is also to keep your wits about you when biking, even away from potential traffic threats – let’s stay safe out there…

Have you ever come to grief with a hazard while cycling?

1 thought on “Cycle crashes are more than just with Motor Vehicles”

  1. Like many many others in Christchurch, the tram tracks. Even when ridden at >45deg they’re still treacherous in damp conditions.

    In Hagley Park the slick wooden edges alongside pathways when need to swing onto grass ride past pedestrians walking several abreast or dog walkers with long leads

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