Exploring the application of the safe system approach to cycling
The personal, social and environmental benefits of cycling have been clearly identified (Bauman et al, 2008). However, significant barriers to encouraging more people to cycle are the perceived and real injury risks for cyclists. The Safe System Approach [SSA] has been recently adopted Australia wide as an approach to road safety. However, much of its application has focussed on motor vehicle safety, and there is limited consideration in the context of cycling safety. As a part of the Safer Cycling Study, a prospective cohort study in which a large cohort of cyclists reported on their cycling patterns and experience, all cyclists who experienced a crash were interviewed (n=145). Interviews were structured around the four elements of the SSA: safe road use, safe infrastructure, safe speeds and safer vehicles. These elements also formed the high-level themes of template analysis of cyclists’ perceived crash causes and opportunities for prevention. Cyclists perceived factors associated with road use (behaviour) as being the greatest contributor to crashes, partly because of a tendency to blame themselves for crashes which could have been avoided by safer infrastructure. Infrastructure factors were next most frequently reported as crash contributors. Cyclists rarely reported safe vehicles or speed as contributory factors. The majority of opportunities for prevention were also perceived to be around safe road use, and included education for all road users. Improved signage and lighting on existing infrastructure and extension of cyclist infrastructure were also mentioned frequently. Consideration of the four quadrants of the SSA provides a useful framework for improving research, policy and practice relating to cycling safety. Although cyclists may lack specific expertise, their perceptions of crash causation and opportunities for prevention offer specific avenues for creating a safer cycling system.