Sunday Territorian

Old men most at risk on bicycles

- Jo Seymour

Thirty years ago, children and young people made up a significan­t proportion of bicycle road deaths – now older male riders travelling on high-speed roads are most at risk.

Bicycle fatalities have been predominan­tly male and their average age has been steadily rising over three decades.

The National Road Deaths Database shows that in the 1990s most victims were in the 20-40 age bracket, whereas in the past decade it has been in the 40-60 bracket and rising.

Compulsory helmet rules, drink and drug driving laws and improved infrastruc­ture have been good for younger riders, but the older cohort who have taken to bicycles for health, fitness, social and environmen­tal reasons face increased safety challenges.

These include declining health and awareness, potentiall­y less experience if they take up riding in retirement, increased driver distractio­n and greater likelihood to be in crashes above 40km/h, at which point collisions are often fatal.

Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack said increasing numbers of older men were riding to ward off health problems, including heart disease and for the social factor, which was a boon for mental health.

“The increase in crash statistics for this age group can be attributed to the larger numbers of older male bike riders on our roads,” she said.

“But we are aware that figure is minuscule compared to the proportion of this age group dying from sedentary diseases.”

Ms McCormack said improved bike infrastruc­ture, such as dedicated bike lanes, had encouraged more people of all ages to ride bikes.

Researcher­s also noted a “safety in numbers” effect which shows that as significan­tly more cyclists use roads and motorists become more aware of them.

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