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Cycling Deaths Are On The Decline, But It’s Not For All Ages

New research revealed cycling deaths across Australia are slowly decreasing, however fatalities involving older, single riders are on the rise.

The research conducted by the University of New South Wales in Sydney analysed the 1,294 cycling deaths recorded in Australia over the last 30 years and found the number decreased overall by an average of 1.1 per cent annually.

In contrast, deaths of those aged 60 years and older increased by 3.3 per cent annually over the same time.

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A significant increase in the amount of single-vehicle cycling deaths – fatal accidents just involving the cyclists themselves – was also revealed.

Single bicycle deaths increased by 3.7 per cent per year for all cyclists, while it increased 4.4 per cent annually for cyclists 60 years and older.

Lead author of the report, Associate Professor Soufiane Boufous said the data reflected an ageing population rather than an increase in cycling participation.

The proportion of cyclist fatalities for people aged over 60 in Australia increased from 8.6 per cent of all cycling deaths in 1991 to 45.7 per cent in 2022.

“Part of it is older people are frailer, so if they do have an accident, they’re more likely to sustain and die from serious injury,” A/Prof Boufous said.

“Older cyclists may also be more likely to underestimate the likelihood of severe injuries due to single-bicycle crashes, so it is essential to raise more awareness of these risks.”

Speaking to the rise in single-vehicle accidents and deaths, A/Prof Boufous said a similar worldwide trend “has also been observed in several European countries where cycling is more popular”.

He said that while cycling infrastructure has been built across the country over the years, giving cyclists their own spaces to ride away from vehicles, it didn’t mean it would decrease the likelihood of any type of accident.

“Just because there is an increased availability and use of dedicated cycling infrastructure doesn’t mean all of it is necessarily good or well kept,” he said.

“We also have very disconnected cycling networks where cycling lanes abruptly end and force riders onto dangerous stretches of road alongside motorists, and it’s not uncommon to find debris or cracks along cycle paths.”