A local advocacy organization recently posted a link to a recent Canadian bicycle injury study. The person then tagged me in the post and asked for my opinion. Homework? I thought I was done with that stuff. Not sure what I know about safety, risk management, crash investigation, etc., but I’ll give it a go.
Blinding flashes of the obvious
Typical of my reaction to studies of this nature, I often find they publish what I would consider commonly understood concepts. There is often a breathless exclamation in the text that somehow the investigators have made a great discovery. This tends to negatively influence my reaction to the rest of the study and I have to fight that. I also have to acknowledge what might seem like common knowledge may not be. Here is an example from the study summary:
Route features that increased risk included:
- streetcar tracks
- downhill grades
Use with caution
But there is some interesting data. Useful in calming the debate (argument, battle, discordant yelling) between bicycle drivers (disciples of Mr. Forester) and those who want bicycle facilities. It seems that some separated bicycle infrastructure features reduce either probability or severity of hazards. They are “safer.”
Another little tidbit that I pulled out of this study is that off street bike paths offer only some reduction in risk (6/10 of the injury rate of streets). Would be interesting to see details on why. Probably due to interactions with other types of users (walking, skating, running, pets, etc.). Possibly due to the facilities themselves (obstacles, debris, design, maintenance and upkeep). Can’t imagine that the simple fall injury (non-collision) is any different between facilities.
- cycle tracks (bike lanes physically separated from motor vehicle traffic) alongside major streets (about 1/10 the risk)
- residential street bike routes (about 1/2 the risk)
- major streets with bike lanes and no parked cars (about 1/2 the risk)
- off-street bike paths (about 6/10 the risk)
As with any single study one should use with caution. This methodology needs to be repeated in other locations. I’ve seen some people making giant leaps by proclaiming this study invalidates anything John Forester has ever said or written.
The web includes a link to a previous study on preference and the authors of the study correlate “safety” to preference. Seems that people who cycle or desire to cycle prefer specific bicycle facilities that provide some segregation from other vehicles. Confirms other studies.