Better roads essential for safer cycling

Better roads essential for safer cycling
This infographic shows factors influencing noncompliance with bicycle passing distance laws. Credit: QUT CARRS-Q

A QUT-led study of Queensland motorists and cyclists recommends that efforts to improve cyclist safety during overtaking events should focus on improving roadway infrastructure.

Professor Haworth, director of QUT's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland (CARRS-Q), said other studies have revealed many bicycle-and occurred while both were travelling in the same direction and involved rear-end and sideswipe collisions. This study has concluded lane widths and speed limits influence the drivers leave when passing, not characteristics.

  • Poor road infrastructure a major factor in cyclist safety
  • Motorists more likely to engage in risky over-taking moves in high and low speed zones, as well as outside of peak hour
  • Minimum passing distance compliance not influenced by cyclist characteristics

Funded by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, the study reviewed 2000 overtaking events at sites in Brisbane, Rockhampton and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. The overall rate of non-compliance with the minimum passing distance rule was around 16 per cent.

"In Australia, sideswipe collisions between cyclists and motorists account for 14% of fatal bicycle crashes and passing too closely is the most common incident type, but it is too simplistic to blame motorists for poor driving," said Professor Haworth, lead author of Factors influencing noncompliance with bicycle passing distance laws which has just been published in international journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

"Australia, like many other countries, has implemented laws to require a minimum distance when motor vehicles pass cyclists, but research into the factors influencing passing distances has produced inconsistent results.

"Our study examined the factors influencing motorists' compliance with the law in Queensland and was done in such a way that none of the motorists or the cyclists were aware of being studied.

"As a result, this study captured the 'true' driving and riding behaviours during passing events. We found the likelihood of non-compliance was greater outside of peak hour as well as on higher (70-80 km/h speed limits) and lower (40 km/h) speed roads than 60 km/h roads, at curved road sections, and on roads with narrower traffic lanes.

"Rider characteristics (age, gender, helmet status, clothing, type of bicycle, and individual vs group riding) had no statistically significant association with driver compliance."

Professor Haworth said the Queensland Government implemented a minimum passing distance rule in 2016 after a two-year trial. CARRS-Q has been conducting evaluations of it with the assistance of Bicycle Queensland and the RACQ.

"For this particular study we captured video of cyclists and motorists involved in passing at a range of locations, including urban, suburban, regional areas and tourism hot spots," Professor Haworth said.

"The results showed compliance levels are influenced by the characteristics of motorists and the roadway, but not of the rider. The key finding is that cycling would be a whole lot safer for riders if infrastructure was improved. This might mean more cycling lanes, for example, while stronger enforcement of the law by authorities would also help to further increase driver compliance."


Explore further

Study calls attention to cyclist-motorist collisions

More information: Ashim Kumar Debnath et al, Factors influencing noncompliance with bicycle passing distance laws, Accident Analysis & Prevention (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.aap.2018.03.016
Citation: Better roads essential for safer cycling (2018, April 6) retrieved 22 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-roads-essential-safer.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
10 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 06, 2018
Cyclists don't belong on the same road with cars. The speed difference and impact energy from a collision is just too great. Cyclists are essentially pedestrians - foot powered - and should have their separate paths from the motor vehicle traffic.

In reality, most cyclists aren't 21-geared carbon fiber and spandex missiles - they just want to get from A to B in reasonable time without breaking a sweat, and it's absolute murder that they have to share the road with cars.

Apr 06, 2018
Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

Motorists do not pay for their separate paths, and cyclists that have contributed to construction of motorists' paths should not be forced to inferior infrastructure. The creation of an independent transportation network creates also vastly more conflicts at intersections between the networks.

Vehicular homicide is a crime usually without witnesses as dead men tell no tales.

Apr 06, 2018
Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.


Vehicles move at 30+ kph, while most cyclists can manage about 15 kph continuously and comfortably. The young and the elderly are much slower. They just don't belong on the same lanes as cars, not even on the side of the road without any barrier between. Cyclists are effectively pedestrians.

inferior infrastructure.


All the world's best cycling cities have separate road networks for bikes + pedestrians. Getting around on cycle is faster than by car, because the paths take less space and interconnect easily, giving you more direct routes.

The creation of an independent transportation network creates also vastly more conflicts at intersections between the networks.


Such network already exists, and the pedestrians are using it. Intersections with major roads are handled by under/overpasses and traffic signals, which the cyclists have to heed as well.

Apr 08, 2018
Eikka, that sounds perfectly reasonable until you run into the problem that many bike paths don't follow the roads which means that the places people are wanting to go are hard to get back to. The city I live in is a very good example of that. We have a bike path that runs from one side of the city to the other and it is completely useless for anyone needing to go to a store, etc.... It's just great for people that just want to exercise as it skips most of the main roads and goes through subdivisions but otherwise was a complete waste of tax payers money to the person that uses a bike/trike for transportation like I do. After thinking about it a moment I will admit we do have another path is beside the road that follows the local river but that road has many curves on it and far too many drivers tend to swing wide in the curves right through the bike lane. I won't even use that road due to that. It was actually safer to ride down before they added the bike lane. People drove slower

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more