MHL Repeal

Discouraged Cyclists, More Cars, More Injuries

By October 18, 2019 October 21st, 2019 No Comments

This is a guest post by Chris Gillham, who maintains, a rich repository of facts and statistics on Australia’s helmet law disaster.

With Australia’s National Cycling Participation surveys suggesting either a decline of more than a million from 2011 to 2019 (if the population percentages of 2011 and 2019 are applied only to the 2018 population) or 539,046 (if the 2011 results are applied to the 2010 population and 2019 results are applied to the 2018 population), how many of them are instead driving a car to their friend’s place, the shops, etc?

Australian Bureau of Statistics data can be handy, although we concede they only show the numbers of vehicles and not how often people drive their vehicles.

They show that in 2011, there were 13,152,834 registered passenger vehicles and motorcycles in Australia.

In 2019, there are 15,374,253 passenger vehicles and motorcycles registered in Australia. That’s a 16.9% increase since 2011.

In 2011, Australia’s 17yo+ driving age population was 17,534,610 and in 2018 it was 19,717,980. That’s a 12.5% driving age population increase since 2011.

That 4.4% difference between vehicle registrations and population growth can be equated in numerous ways but, most simply, 4.4% of 15,374,253 registered motor vehicles and motorcycles is 676,467 more than if registrations had matched population growth at 12.5%.

That 676,467 excess is comparible with between 539,046 and a million fewer people riding bikes from 2011 to 2019.

Sure, the figures can’t assume that every discouraged cyclists didn’t also have a vehicle anyway, but there could be a proportion who buy a car because they’re discouraged from cycling a few kilometres, or maybe a second family car because the partner is discouraged from cycling, etc. Whatever, the data suggests an increased ratio of vehicles per person since 2011 and raises questions as to whether Australian car registrations would have risen 86.0% from 1990 to 2019 (7,797,300 > 14,504,148) vs 17yo+ driving age population growth of 54.3% from 1990 to 2018 (12,780,937 > 19,717,980).

Traffic speed is used by the Australian Automobile Association to gauge vehicle congestion in Australian cities …

i.e. traffic congestion has been increasing in all capital cities since 2013.

The most recent AIHW data show there were 34,042 hospitalised road injuries in Australia in 2011 and 38,945 in 2016.  That’s a 14.4% increase.

From 2011 to 2016, car occupant injuries were up 14.1% (16,722 > 19,085), motorcyclist injuries were up 12.6% (7,571 > 8,523), pedestrian injuries were down 0.6% (2,760 > 2,744), and pedal cyclist injuries were up 28.0% (5,393 > 6,905)..

Of course, those are only hospitalised injury figures to 2016 and if we had the extra two years to 2018 the percentage increase would probably be nudging the 16.9% increase in registered vehicles and motorbikes from 2011 to 2019.

Pedestrian data are the exception but although the figures are dated and not entirely indicative, we note ABS recreation surveys showing 4,258,800 Australians walking for exercise in 2011-12 and 3,544,900 in 2013-14, a 16.8% reduction.

The data supports a logical assumption that discouraging cyclists with helmet laws increases the injury risk to all road users.

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