Road Safety Research Report
Bicycle Crashes and Injuries
in Western Australia

The objectives of this study were (i) to examine current research into bicycle safety, and (ii) to analyse police and hospital data relating to bicycle crashes in Western Australia for the period from 1987 to 1996.

The rationale for undertaking the study was to determine the past and current status of bicycle safety in WA and provide information about the characteristics of bicycle crashes and injuries to use in developing bicycle safety initiatives

Five main areas of research were identified in the literature -

  1. Factors associated with bicycle crashes such as cyclist characteristics, crash circumstances, and temporal factors.
  2. The under-reporting of bicycle crashes in the police records which is evident when comparing police data with hospital and other sources of data relating to bicycle crashes and injuries.
  3. The extent of injuries to cyclists in terms of injury severity and body region of injury.
  4. Bicycle usage and traffic exposure, and the relative risk of cycling compared with other modes of transport.
  5. Measures to reduce bicycle crash and injury rates, which can be grouped into engineering countermeasures, vehicle safety features, education and enforcement.

Brief Review of Current Research on Bicycle Safety

A brief review of current research in each of these areas is provided in the report.


Data on bicycle crashes and injuries for the years from 1987 to 1996 were obtained from two sources, namely police reports and hospital admission records. Linked police and hospital data were used to examine the reporting rate to the police of road crashes involving cyclists admitted to hospital. The study used descriptive statistical methods to analyse these different data sources.

Summary of Major Findings

Police-reported Road Crash Data

Size of the Problem

Cyclist Profile

Injury Severity

Helmet Wearing

Other Vehicle Characteristics

Crash Type

Traffic Control

Road Type

Crash Location

Temporal Factors

Hospital Admissions Data

Size of the Problem

Cyclist Profile

Injury Severity

Body Region of Injury

Common Injury Types

Length of Stay in Hospital

Crash Type

Road Type

Place of Residence of Cyclist

Reporting Rate to the Police of Crashes Involving Hospital Admissions


The results of this study were found to be generally consistent with other Australian and international studies in terms of the findings relating to the profile of cyclists, crash characteristics, injury severity and the most common types of injury. The majority of cyclists involved in crashes were young and predominantly male. With regard to crash circumstances, almost all police-reported bicycle crashes involved a motor vehicle and occurred on-road, while a high proportion of cyclists admitted to hospital following a bicycle crash were involved in crashes not involving a motor vehicle with only half occurring on-road. In the police data, the most common crash types resulting in fatalities or hospital admissions were right-angled crashes, rear end crashes and sideswipe crashes. Most cyclists admitted to hospital had moderate or minor injuries, with the most frequently occurring injuries being those to the head and upper extremities.

Some important differences were found in the information obtained from the police-reported data and the hospital admissions data. These were -

  1. Hospitalised cyclists were considerably younger than cyclists in the police-reported data.
  2. The two data sources revealed very different distributions across road user groups. The police data showed cyclists accounting for a much smaller share of road casualties, and motorists for a much greater share, than the hospital data.
  3. The number of cyclists involved in crashes in the police data decreased between 1987 and 1996, while the hospital data showed no downward trend in injuries to cyclists (although there were fluctuations on a year-to-year basis).

This report has important implications for the development of bicycle safety policy in Western Australia. The descriptive data - relating to the size of the bicycle safety problem, cyclist characteristics, injury details and crash characteristics - provide information that can be used to identify the crash and injury problem and develop strategies and programs for bicycle safety. In addition, the report has found some important differences between the police and hospital data that need to be recognised when decisions relating to bicycle safety issues are being made.

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