Photo by Amy Walker
Dunsmuir Protected Bike LaneDunsmuir Street protected bike lanes in September 2010.
A study by the University of British Columbia, published on October 18, 2012 in the American Journal of Public Health, reveals that certain types of routes carry a much lower risk of injury for cyclists.
The routes with the lowest risk to cyclists include bike lanes on major streets without parked cars, residential street bike routes, off-street bike paths and separated bike lanes.
How much safer are these routes?
Painted bike lanes and residential street bike routes reduce the risk of injury by half and in the case of physically separated bike lanes the risk of injury is reduced to one-tenth in comparison to routes where the risk of injury is higher. The routes with the greatest risk to bicyclists include major streets with parked cars and no bike lanes. Due to a lack of designated road space cyclists are exposed to a heightened risk of injury from moving cars and parked cars when drivers and passengers open doors into the roadway.
“Cycle tracks and other bike-specific infrastructure are prevalent in the cycling cities of Northern Europe, but have been slow to catch on in North America,” says Kay Teschke, a professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and lead author of the study. “Adoption of safer route infrastructure would prevent crashes from occurring in the first place, while encouraging cycling. Since cycling offers major health benefits, this is a win-win.”
Teschke says that increased injury risk also exists with streetcar or train tracks, and where there is construction. “There is renewed interest in streetcars for urban transportation, and the associated tracks were found to be particularly hazardous for cyclists,” she adds. “There is also higher risk when construction impacts road traffic. Safe detours for cyclists need to be provided."