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Virtuous cycle

International research reveals that as cycling participation increases, a cyclist is far less likely to collide with a motor vehicle or suffer injury and death - and what's true for cyclists is true for pedestrians. And it's not simply because there are fewer cars on the roads, but because motorists seem to change their behaviour and drive more safely when they see more cyclists and pedestrians around.

"It's a virtuous cycle," says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW who will address a cycling safety seminar in Sydney, Australia, on September 5. "The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle."

Safety concerns are among the most significant barriers preventing Australians from cycling, including among those who cycle regularly, according to the report, titled Cycling: Getting Australia Moving.

Dr Rissel, of Sydney University, says transport authorities should highlight the fun, convenience and health and environmental benefits of cycling, rather than what he views as an undue emphasis on danger and safety messages, which can deter cyclists: "We should create a cycling friendly environment and accentuate cycling's positives rather than stress negatives with 'safety campaigns' that focus on cyclists without addressing drivers and road conditions. Reminding people of injury rates and risks, to wear helmets and reflective visible clothes has the unintended effect of reinforcing fears of cycling which discourages people from cycling."

Sun 7 Sep 2008

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