Infrastructure not keeping up with cycling boom - researcher

Cycling injury rates are increasing about 17 percent a year, according to a new study.

Kiwis are getting the message to get on their bikes, but safer infrastructure isn't being built to accommodate them all.

"It looks like we're not seeing protection and prevention keep pace with this level of activity," study author Grant Christie told The AM Show on Friday morning.

"We want to promote the good, healthy aspects of it, but we're lagging behind a little bit in infrastructure to make sure it's safe for everybody."

Auckland Transport statistics show cycling in the city is growing around 15 to 20 percent a year - about the same rate at which injuries are rising.

Christie's research shows almost 1000 cyclists were submitted to hospital between 2012 and 2016. Nearly one-in-10 of those had suffered major trauma.

"Of quite a lot of concern is that 54 of those patients had severe traumatic brain injuries. Those are injuries that can change your life and those of your family, whanau, everyone around you, and they can often have a lifetime consequence... it's a really big issue."

Despite a growing focus on cycle lanes and shared spaces, he says it's not happening fast enough.

"It's a complex issue, but it's not unknown to policy makers and I hope this would spur on some action to sort out our safety, particularly in those shared spaces."

Reducing the number of injuries will take a three-pronged approach - not just better infrastructure, but also skills training for cyclists and an attitude change for motorists.

As for the helmet debate, Christie says there is evidence they make cyclists more willing to take risks - but he wouldn't ride without one.

"We see people come in with shattered helmets and a mild concussion - it's pretty clear they would have had a worse injury had they not been wearing a helmet."