Why older cyclists are facing a growing threat on Australia’s roads

Jan 15, 2024
Source: Tracey Nearmy/AAP PHOTOS.

There’s nothing like a leisurely bike ride on a warm summer day, however, in a troubling revelation, new data from the University of NSW has uncovered a concerning trend in cycling fatalities among older Australians.

Thirty years ago, older adults accounted for one in 10 single cyclist deaths whereas since 2010 they make up a third of the numbers.

The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, exposes a 3.3 per cent increase in deaths among riders over 60, even as overall cycling fatalities have seen a slight decline of 1.1 per cent.

While cycling has become a popular recreational activity among older Australians, the statistics paint a grim picture of its growing dangers with age. The prevalence of single vehicle crashes has seen a significant rise, reaching 4.4 per cent for older Australians over the same period.

Lead author and injury epidemiologist Associate Professor Soufiane Boufous provided some insight on the issue, noting that “older people are frailer, so if they do have an accident, they’re more likely to sustain and die from serious injury”.

“And the population is ageing and there are just more people and therefore we will see more deaths … it’s just sheer numbers.”

Despite an increase in cycling infrastructure investment over the past three decades, the rise in fatalities suggests that improvements are still needed, especially in maintaining bike lanes

“We are creating infrastructure and that’s good but they’re not well maintained,” Boufous expressed that, being an avid cyclist, he frequently encounters the inconvenience of being diverted from designated bike lanes into traffic due to the presence of potholes and debris.

“That can be an issue for an older cyclist who tends to lose balance a bit more than a younger cyclist,” he added.

Boufous emphasises the need for more targeted measures to address the issue. He calls for increased training for older riders, highlighting the lack of instruction for those who take up cycling in their 50s.

In particular, he advocates for enhanced training programs to reduce single vehicle crashes and promote safe cycling practices.

“Lots of people take up cycling in their 50s now but there’s very little training,” he said.

“In terms of those single vehicle crashes, we need more cycling instruction, we need to have a bit more training to reduce those and … train people on how to ride safely.”

-with AAP.

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