Vancouver's separated bike lanes should cut cycling injuries dramatically
Separated bike lanes, such as those installed in recent years in downtown Vancouver, result in about one-tenth the injury rate for cyclists compared to major thoroughfares with parked cars and no bike infrastructure, according to a recent UBC study.
The research project looked at 690 cycling injuries in Toronto and Vancouver during the years 2008 and 2009.
Different kinds of routes and infrastructures came under scrutiny in the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health on October 18.
Compared to major routes like Broadway in Vancouver and Dundas Street in Toronto, with no bike lanes and with parked cars presenting dangers from opening doors, infrastructure such as residential bike lanes and bike lanes on busy streets without parked cars presented only half the risk.
But the lowest risk came from cycle tracks, or physically separated bike lanes, like those on Hornby and Dunsmuir streets in Vancouver, with only 10 percent of the danger.
In a news release distributed on the study’s publishing date, and less than two weeks before the annual Bike to Work Week (October 29 to November 2), lead author and UBC professor Kay Teschke said that cycle tracks, although popular in Northern European cities where cycling is prevalent, “have been slow to catch on in North America”.
“Adoption of safer route infrastructure would prevent crashes from occurring in the first place, while encouraging cycling,” said Teschke, who teaches in the university’s school of population and public health. “Since cycling offers major health benefits, this is a win-win.”
According to Teschke, streetcar and train tracks, more commonly encountered by cyclists in Toronto than in Vancouver, are a major concern.
“There is renewed interest in streetcars for urban transportation, and the associated tracks were found to be especially hazardous for cyclists,” she said in the release.
She added that construction projects also present a risk of injury for those riding bikes. “Safe detours for cyclists need to be provided,” she said.