Unlike car occupants, cyclists and motorcyclists have little physical protection and so, in the event of crashes, are particularly vulnerable to injury. They are also less visible to motorists. Moreover, because of their greater speed, motorcyclists are at higher risk than cyclists, while both cyclists and motorcyclists are at considerably higher risk than car occupants (see Risks of different modes section).
For both groups the overall risk of injury decreased between 1989/90 and 1997/98. The overall average risk of injury or death to a motorcyclist fell by more than 25 percent over this period. However, this is not the case for young motorcyclists (aged 15-24) whose risk increased slightly. Between 1989/90 and 1997/98 the overall average risk of cyclists being injured in a collision with a motor vehicle decreased by 20 percent. Children aged 5-14 are now at the highest risk.
The highest risk time for motorcyclists is the same as that for car drivers (midnight to 4am), with alcohol and speed being major contributors to the increased risk at this time. Peak risk for cyclists is centred on the 6-8pm period, when traffic is still fairly heavy and cyclists are often less visible to motorists in the twilight or dark.
To consider only crashes with motor vehicles would be to underestimate the injury risk for cyclists. Cyclists are also at risk of being injured in other crashes such as those involving pedestrians, other cyclists, roadside obstructions, or simply falling off. On average, for every 100 million km ridden, 140 cyclists are injured severely enough to be admitted to hospital in crashes that don't involve motor vehicles*. This figure excludes cyclists who received minor injuries in such crashes and were not admitted to hospital.
* Note that this includes only cyclists injured in crashes that were known to be on-road. A large number of cycle crashes occurred at unrecorded locations, and it is to be expected that this includes some additional on-road crashes.
This document has highlighted significant research findings. It is hoped that individuals and groups will be able to make use of these findings so that our roads may become safer places for all New Zealanders and the many visitors to this country.