Landmark study finds separated bike lanes, slower vehicle speeds greatly reduce bicycle injuries

February 21, 2013
Landmark study finds separated bike lanes, slower vehicle speeds greatly reduce bicycle injuries
Professor Anne Harris, School of Occupational and Public Health, is the lead author of a landmark study that finds reduced vehicle speeds, separated bike lanes greatly reduce the risk of cyclist injuries.

Using your bicycle to commute to work has numerous health and environmental benefits. Yet, the largest Canadian study on cycling injuries led by Ryerson University suggests cyclists are at risk of injury due to the lack of cycling infrastructure in large urban centres.

"Previous studies have focused on the measures such as that reduce harm after a crash occurs," says Anne Harris, lead author of the study, who is an avid cyclist herself and an assistant professor with Ryerson's School of Occupational and Public Health. "Our study is one of the first to take a comprehensive look at how route infrastructure, particularly at and major , might influence the risk of cyclist injury in Canada."

North American are eight to 30 more times likely to be seriously injured while cycling than their counterparts in Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands. Harris says one explanation could be the availability of segregated bike lanes in those countries.

The major findings of the Ryerson's School of Occupational and Public are:


  • Intersections at residential streets
  • Cars travelling 30 km and under decreases the risk of injuring a cyclist by half

Intersections—less safe

  • Traffic circles: designed as a traffic calming measure, actually increase the risk of cyclist injuries. In the study, 19 out of 690 accidents occurred in Vancouver intersections with traffic circles
  • Grade: roads that slope downhill are more dangerous than uphill roads
  • Arriving at the intersection in the opposite direction of
  • Separated bike lanes along major streets
  • Bike routes with traffic diversion on local streets
  • Bike-only paths separated from traffic
Non-intersections—less safe
  • Streetcar tracks
  • Downhill grade
  • Construction at site
  • Shared bike lanes or single bike lanes with parked cars present
The researchers also found that painted and shared bike lanes commonly found in Toronto offered no significant protection for cyclists.

"Our research demonstrates that transportation planners really need to segregate cyclists from motor vehicle traffic just as we use sidewalks to separate pedestrians," says 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."

Research methodology

Harris and her co-authors, also cyclists, interviewed 690 cyclists injured in downtown Toronto and Vancouver between May 2008 and November 2009. According to Census data, nearly two per cent of people in Toronto and almost four percent in Vancouver commute by bicycle.

In the study, all of the cyclists sought medical attention at emergency departments with injuries ranging from minor to serious. Of the total number of cyclists, 211 were injured at intersections and 479 injured along roads or paths.

The researchers gathered two sets of data. First, they asked all of the cyclists to map the route they were injured on, and describe the details of their trip and their injury. Next, an observer visited one or two randomly selected locations along each route to coincide the injury site (if it was at an intersection or not). Specific details about each site were gathered such as the presence and type of bike lanes, grade of the road and traffic volume. Finally, the researchers performed statistical analyses to look at the relationship between route infrastructure and relative safety.

At the time of the study, both Toronto and Vancouver had cycling infrastructure typical of North American cities: shared , local street bike paths, off-street paths and a few kilometres of physically separated bicycle routes beside major roads. Some of the features unique to Toronto were streetcar tracks on major streets, whereas traffic circles are common in Vancouver residential areas. Vancouver also has a helmet law for all ages, where it's optional for Toronto adult cyclists.

The study is published in the journal Injury Prevention.

Explore further: Bicycle infrastructure can reduce risk of cycling injuries by half

More information: … 040561.full.pdf+html

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2 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2013
funny im a lifelong commuter in manhatttan the most important deteminant of the cyclists OWN ability to prevent accidents is by going slowly. between 10-15 mph is MUCH safer than 15-18 mph. above 18 mph you can no longer stop yourself AND if you are going above 18 mph you are likely sitting in a prone position. upright position riding ( on cruisers/dutchies/ abd general laid back style commuters allows for better peripheral vision WHILE preventingvthe cyclist from going beyond 18mph.

high speed is especially problematic on downhill stretches where it becomes easier to slip and harder to turn or stop.

they can do much better studies by affixing speedometers to bikes hooked up to the internet and asking for cyclists to self report falls acciddnts involving no one, pedestrians, AND vehicles. most urban bike accidents involve no one then pedestrians and least common other vehicles.

1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2013
Separate bicycle facilities, in the limit an independent network, are expensive and multiply intersections with the preexisting autocentric network of roadways.

A glance at the lead author reveals the disqualifying impeachment.
not rated yet Feb 21, 2013
considering the least common (your definition) are the ones that most likely kill people, surely it's those we want to prevent?
1 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2013
Having lived for several years in a city in germany with one of the best cycling infrastructures (Karlsruhe): I can only agree with the conclusion of the researchers. Paths for cyclists that are physically separate from motorways are key.

But from comparison with other cities that have only marginally less well developed cycling infrastructure: A big part in avoiding accidents seems to be the awareness of the automobilists to the (possible) presence of cyclists.

In Karslruhe there are so many cyclists that automobilists expect them to be around every corner - and consequently drive more defensively. Even at intersections that would otherwise seem dangerous the number of incidents was low to non-existent.
1 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2013
in Kanada with its limited automobile ownership coupled with car curfews in the bigger cities this sophomoric study will not relate to the US. What is needed and may be expedited with the election of another nanny Premier - is for the licensing of cyclists - it is not telling tales outta school to suggest the average cyclist remains at the bottom end of the IQ spectrum (or they would have money to drive a proper all weather machine) but requiring training and testing might save their simple lives.

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