A new study has found that separating cyclists from cars can greatly reduce injuries.
The research, published in the journal Injury Prevention, focuses on cyclists in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, and is based on interviews with 690 cyclists who had been injured between May 2008 and November 2009.
During this time period, the two cities had cycling infrastructure typical in North American cities, including shared bike lanes, local street bike paths, off-street paths and physically separated bike routes on major roads.
“Previous studies have focused on the measures such as helmets that reduce harm after a crash occurs,” Anne Harris, assistant professor at Ryerson’s School of Occupational and Public Health in Toronto, told Phys Org. “Our study is one of the first to take a comprehensive look at how route infrastructure, particularly at intersections and major roadways, might influence the risk of cyclist injury in Canada.” It’s important to note that Vancouver requires helmets for cyclists of all ages, while helmet use is optional for adult cyclists in Toronto.
The study found that the safest intersections were on residential streets. It also found that when cars traveled through intersections at under 30 km (18.6 mph), the risk of cyclist injuries dropped by 50 percent. Traffic circles, intersections with downhill grades and arriving at an intersection in the opposite direction from vehicular traffic all increased these risks.
Non-intersections were found to be safer with separated bike lanes on major streets, when bike routes were diverted to local streets and when bike-only paths were separated from traffic (often by a parked car lane in between).
These non-intersections were observed to be less safe when they had streetcar tracks (common in Toronto), a downhill grade, construction on-site, shared bike lanes or single bike lanes where parked cars were present.
“Our research demonstrates that transportation planners really need to segregate cyclists from motor vehicle traffic just as we use sidewalks to separate pedestrians,” said Harris. “If people see cycling as a safer activity, they would be more encouraged to commute by bike, which makes them more active and healthy citizens.”
A PDF of the study can be found on Injury Prevention's website.