Inadequate registration of cycling accidents hinders research on the lack of bicycle safety
The lack of a good traffic accident registration system is one of the main hindrances to bringing the quality of research into cycling safety to a higher level. This is what the SWOV (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid) claims in its study entitled “From bicycle accident to taking measures: knowledge and gaps”.
In that study the institute summarizes, on behalf of the Nationale Onderzoeksagenda Fietsveiligheid (NoaF – the National Research Agenda for Cycling Safety), the state of affairs regarding traffic safety for the cyclist, and which scientific research can improve the safety. Within the NoaF, Dutch research institutes collaborate with researchers in order to improve traffic safety for cyclists. A direct motivation for this is the alarming number of traffic accidents among cyclists. In Holland about 190 fatalities occur per year, which is a quarter of all traffic casualties. 55% of all seriously injured individuals are cyclists, amounting to over 9200 seriously injured cyclists per year during the last 5 years. As a result the number of seriously injured cyclists has risen from 7100 in the year 2000 to almost 11,000 in 2009. Each year, another 71,000 cyclists need to be treated in a hospital emergency departments following an accident. This means that more than half of all those being treated in the emergency rooms following a traffic accident are cyclists.
Aside from the fact that poor registration of traffic accidents hinders research, it is often not known what effect general traffic safety measures have on the safety of cyclists. It is at any rate established that the construction of bike paths and roundabouts has decidedly improved cycling safety but little is known about the effect of enforcement of traffic rules on the safety of cyclists. More should also be known about the effect of wearing helmets and fitting external airbags on cars to protect cyclists during an accident. It is also necessary to determine how curbs, bollards and signs can be shielded more effectively. Finally there is the question of the effect of “noiseless” and intelligent vehicles on cyclists, since these vehicles behave differently than cyclists would expect.
The SWOV demands that special attention be given to younger and older cyclists. The first group can benefit from training to recognize dangers in traffic. An important research topic for older cyclists is to establish whether or not the advantages of electric bikes outweigh the disadvantages.