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Teenagers and bike riders who fail to wear helmets properly (or at all) are 10 times more likely to be involved in conflicts with pedestrians than other cyclists, QUT research shows.
A study of almost 2000 cyclists at six locations in Brisbane's city centre over four days found that 22 per cent of bike riders cycled on the footpath in busy thoroughfares.
Researchers from QUT's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Qld observed that only 1.1 per cent of cyclists (about 20) had a 'conflict' with pedestrians, such as swerving or braking hard to avoid a collision.
Another 0.6 per cent (12 riders), observed at areas including near City Hall, Central Railway Station, Riparian Plaza and the Old Treasury Building, had a conflict with a vehicle.
No collisions between cyclists and pedestrians or bike riders and vehicles were observed.
Speaking during Bike Week 2012, Professor Narelle Haworth said higher risk-taking groups were significantly more likely to get into conflicts with other commuters, particularly pedestrians on footpaths.
"Adolescents, who made up two per cent of total riders, and the 2.4 per cent of cyclists who weren't wearing helmets at all or properly were more likely to be involved in conflicts," she said.
"They represented less than one per cent of total riders but make up a tenth of conflicts."
"Teenagers are more likely to bother people on footpaths as are people who don't wear helmets properly. These are markers for risk taking."
Professor Haworth said despite the density of cars, pedestrians and cyclists in Brisbane's city centre, there was little conflict with bike riders.
"In Queensland, it is legal for cyclists to ride on the footpaths unlike many jurisdictions in Australia," she said.
"It's a busy environment to be riding in and pedestrians are increasingly concerned about the threat of being injured by cyclists who ride on footpaths.
"But the vast majority of cyclists don't have any problems with pedestrians or vehicles."
Professor Haworth said Queensland, like the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, should continue to allow cyclists to ride on footpaths.
"Footpaths give cyclists a safer option in areas where the rider considers the road and traffic conditions to be too dangerous," she said.
"It's important for cyclists to ride courteously but there doesn't seem to be any strong reason why we should change our current laws."
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Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, media officer, 3138 1150, firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Narelle Haworth (centre) says most cyclists who ride on footpaths avoid conflicts with pedestrians.