An investigation into how the Netherlands achieved an 80 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed per kilometre over the last 30 years has identified a number of different factors, including low cycling speeds and a heavily-used motorway network. However, the country’s strict liability law was not found to have had a major effect.
The Dutch road to a high level of cycling safety, published in the journal Safety Science, found that high bicycle use, low cycling speeds, traffic-calmed areas where through traffic is kept out, and a heavily used motorway network have all contributed to improving cycling safety.
In contrast, comprehensive traffic education and training of both cyclists and motorists was found to have made “no or at most a very small contribution to cycling safety.”
The study also looked at the impact of strict liability laws, whereby unless it can clearly be proven that a vulnerable road user was at fault, the more powerful road user is found liable by default. The introduction of strict liability in the Netherlands in 1994 was not found to be associated with cycling safety.
Crikey reports that although a high amount of bicycle use – and a corresponding reduction in the number of drivers – was found to have a major influence on cycling safety; the study authors said that the level of network separation was a much more important factor.
Almost 60 per cent of all cycling in the Netherlands is done in traffic-calmed urban areas. The study highlights how through traffic has been shifted from these places to the country’s heavily-used motorway network.
Whereas around a quarter of all vehicle kilometres of travel in Europe take place on motorways, in the Netherlands the figure is more like a half, and at 57km per 1,000 square kilometres, it has the densest motorway network in Europe.
The study says: “A heavily used freeway network shifts motor vehicles from streets with high cycling levels. This reduces exposure to high-speed motor vehicles. Separated bicycle paths and intersection treatments decrease the likelihood of bicycle–motor vehicle crashes.”