By HUB Cycling
When more people use a bicycle for transportation instead of using a personal motor vehicle, communities experience huge public-health benefits through the increase in physical activity—and reductions in noise and air pollution.
What many people don’t realize is that the safety of all road users also improves when more people choose two wheels—as cities experience a decrease in traffic crashes, serious injuries, and deaths. There are a couple main reasons for this.
First, people on bicycles pose almost no risk to other road users compared to people driving 2,000-kilogram vehicles. Dr. Kay Teschke, professor emeritus in public health at the University of British Columbia, notes that an average of 1,600 pedestrians in B.C. are hospitalized each year due to collisions or falls on streets and highways. Of these, an average of 10 involve a collision with someone biking—much less than one percent.
"The weight, momentum, and force difference between a motor vehicle and a person on foot or bike is just huge,” says Teschke. “People walking and cycling pose a near zero risk to other road users.”
Second, when more people cycle and walk, motorists become more aware of other road users, contributing to something researchers call “the safety in numbers effect”.
Put simply, when more people bike, walk, and take transit, people behind the wheel become more alert to these vulnerable road users, driving more carefully and improving road safety for everyone.
“The research shows that the effect of safety in numbers is virtually the same for people cycling and people walking,” adds Teschke.
The City of Vancouver’s investment in cycling infrastructure has not only paid dividends by increasing the number of people using healthy and nonpolluting transportation, but has also contributed to the city’s overall road safety record.
There’s plenty of data to show that traffic injuries and deaths are preventable. By doing everything we can to allow people to choose safer and healthier modes of travel (transit, walking, biking)—by lowering speed limits and improving street designs to protect all road users—we can save lives.