BIKE lanes across Newcastle and the Hunter wedged between parking spaces and the road have been described as death traps that do not comply with national guidelines, and are being blamed for an increase in cycling injuries.
Figures issued by the NSW Motor Accident Authority reveal that Newcastle has the third-highest number of cycling-related accidents in the state reported under the authority’s Lifetime Care and Support Scheme, which covers people with the worst injuries.
Newcastle personal injury lawyer Emma Mead said her practice reported a 10per cent increase over the past two years in inquiries and legal action involving Hunter cyclists.
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A Motor Accident Authority spokesman said the authority’s database did not record the total number of crashes involving cyclists, only the number of CTP claims lodged by cyclists over an injury caused by a motorist.
He said the authority could not comment on the circumstances of any crash.
He said that in 2010, 20 cyclists in the Newcastle-Maitland area claimed compensation through the CTP scheme.
In 2009, 30 cyclists claimed compensation.
Figures issued by the Roads and Traffic Authority show that in the two years to December 2010, there were 283 crashes involving cyclists in the Hunter and Central Coast, eight resulting in death.
Newcastle Cycleways Movement secretary Bernard Hockings said the rising cost of petrol and media campaigns for motorists to switch to pedal power could be contributing to the growing number of cyclists on Hunter roads.
But Mr Hockings said cycleways were not accommodating them safely.
He said Newcastle City Council’s Draft Cycling Strategy and Action Plan would hopefully address the issue.
He said the document would have a major effect on cycling over the next decade and a workshop on the strategy would be held today at Newcastle Museum.
‘‘Newcastle is plagued with cycleways marked in car door ‘death’ lanes,’’ Mr Hockings said.
‘‘They’re worse than having nothing.
‘‘Drivers of approaching cars expect bikes to stay left on the line, right next to parked cars where the bike symbols are painted.
‘‘But when a parked car’s door is suddenly opened, bike riders either collide with the door or are forced to swerve into traffic.’’
Mr Hockings said national guidelines required a 0.4- to one-metre buffer zone to be marked between parked cars and the bike lane.
If a road was not wide enough to provide that clearance, the only road markings should be bike symbols in the traffic lane to indicate cyclists might need to ride in the traffic lane to avoid parked cars.
‘‘We advise cyclists not to ride in the car door lane – treat the symbols and line marking as an indication of the most dangerous place to ride,’’ he said.
A council survey of 784 Newcastle cyclists in August last year found that 42per cent felt unsafe, especially on major roads, with abusive and careless motorists and a lack of dedicated bike lanes mostly to blame.
In the 12 months before the study, 47per cent were abused by motorists, 52per cent were hit by opening car doors and 55per cent had a near-miss with a vehicle.