Bicycle crashes in New Zealand

A slightly revised and shortened version of a Master's thesis at Lincoln University witten by Kerry Wood (MICE, MIPENZ, MCIT) - January 1999

Web edition with minor editorial changes - April 2008


The objective of this study is to consider safety aspects of the New Zealand cycling environment.

Cycling is one of the cheapest and most sustainable forms of transport, and for short distances in congested urban areas it is often the fastest. Cycling has strong potential for improving sustainability in urban transport. It is safe in the sense of presenting a low threat to others but dangerous in the sense of vulnerability to risk imposed by others. The major safety problem is sharing space with motor vehicles on roads designed and used with little or no thought for cyclists' needs.

A database maintained by the Land Transport Safety Authority is used to show that over 85% of serious and fatal cycle crashes fall into only 14 types of crash. These are analysed for frequency of fatal and serious injuries, the effects of cyclist's age, and changes over time. Each of the selected crash types is analysed for common contributing factors.

Bicycle facility design manuals from Australia, the Netherlands and the UK are used to develop proposals suitable for New Zealand conditions. The focus is particularly on methods of reducing risk in the most common crash situations.

However, engineering measures cannot be effective in isolation. Non-engineering measures needed to improve cycle safety include legislation changes; a fundamental review of the thinking behind present road safety practices; and estimation of the costs and benefits of enhanced cycle use.

Practical recommendations cover cycle lane design, cycles sharing space on roads, footpaths and bus lanes, and areas where traffic speed and volume make separate cycle provision necessary. However, most cycle crashes happen at road junctions and this is the area where present cycle provision is weakest. Recommendations are developed for guiding bicycles through junctions in safety, particularly when turning right or in situations where other traffic is turning.


Whilst Kerry is not employed by ViaStrada, we have offered to host an online version of his thesis, as we refer to this work in our Fundamentals of Planning and Design for Cycling course. Kerry's thesis gives a unique insight into the NZ safety situation for cycling, and this online version can be accessed more easily than the hardcopy via interloan.

Where presented/published

Masters thesis