Dangers of “Talk Back Research”

20th November 2013

A recent article by Mathew Dearnaley of the NZ Herald (see below)reports on some conclusions from the coronial inquiry into 94 cycling deaths since 2007.  The findings are noteworthy in the following:

- contrary to “submissions'” the majority of cyclist deaths are not caused by cars.

Moral: Submissions are typically opinion, based on small  samples and frequently just wrong

- of 13 deaths, in 12 cases cyclists were wearing helmets

Moral: A regulation forcing action on one aspect of a complex process is typically of no great use

- 3 of 5 people dying wore hi-viz clothing. A small sample as well but in these cases at least bright tacky colours were of limited value – look elsewhere for safety

Moral: Do not make hi-viz compulsory, it creates illusory perceptions of safety.

And the article itself………..

Middle-aged men appear to be the group most at risk of being killed cycling, and wearing high-visibility clothing is no guarantee of survival.

Those are among conclusions of a coronial inquiry into 13 cycling deaths, which also took account of 81 others since mid-2007 - representing an average of more than 15 a year.

The victims ranged in age from 6 to 93, with an average of around 46 years, and more than three-quarters were male.

Coroner Gordon Matenga said he was surprised to find that 58.5 per cent of deaths were the result of cyclists' errors, which was "contrary to every submission to me which suggested that motorists were deemed to be responsible in most cycle crashes".

He noted there were no other vehicles involved in 35 of the deaths, but motorists were responsible for 57.6 per cent of 59 fatalities in which they collided with cyclists.

Of 13 deaths since 2010 which Mr Matenga was asked by Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean to focus on, 10 involved collisions with vehicles, whose drivers failed to see the cyclists in five instances, despite three of the five cyclists wearing high-visibility clothing.

Cyclists also wore helmets in 12 instances, the exception being an intoxicated man who was run over after tumbling off his bike.

Mr Matenga noted submissions from the Cycling Advocates Network that making high-visibility clothing compulsory would become a barrier to people cycling, and that the more riders on the roads, the safer they would be.


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