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October 24, 2012




I have to disagree slightly here with you. Take a look at the chart in the posted article. Then, neglect the y-axis completely. The y-axis is "how safe do you feel," and has nothing to do with how safe you are.

Compare the x-axis position of two dots: "Major street, parked cars and bike lane" with "Major street, no parked cars." The street with the bike lane is actually _less_ safe than the one with parked cars but no bike lane.

Have a look at the actual data in that manner, and I think you'll find that the presence or absence of bike lanes on different types of streets has a much smaller effect on safety than other factors.


Looks to me like bike lanes are better than nothing, but way worse than cycle tracks. I don't see that as being inconsistent with Bill's original point.



Comparing major streets with parked cars to major streets with parked cars and bike lanes is tempting from an apples-to-apples perspective, but I will note the large real safety jump from parked cars + bike lane to no parked cars + bike lane. Some interpretation is required.

Roadways that have parked cars and bike lanes usually put the bike lanes between the parked and moving cars. It is not surprising that they don't provide much in the way of real safety, the cycling lane is often squeezed in without any allowances being made.

We could, instead, protect the cyclists from traffic with parked cars, instead of the other way around. As well, the key findings from the study are that cycle tracks-- proper separated bike lanes-- are far and away the safest *and* the most preferred.

What surprised me from the study was the relative unsafeness of multi-use paths (despite their perceived safety). I can only assume this is from poor intersection design and a (natural, in my opinion) lack of adherence to dismount-to-cross rules. Our region is building a lot of MU paths, and I'm a little troubled to see this data-- possibly because I, too, perceive them as safe and preferable.

(Oh, also your statement "The street with the bike lane is actually _less_ safe than the one with parked cars but no bike lane." doesn't match with my interpretation of the graph. Can you recheck?)


A post-script to my previous comment. We shouldn't neglect the y-axis when it comes to forming policy. Improving cycling rates is not just a matter of making it safer, but making it *feel* safer. Improved cycling rates, in turn, can lead to lower accident rates overall (the oft-mentioned "safety in numbers" effect where the increased presence of cyclists on the road makes us used to dealing with them safely) and make investments in cycling infrastructure an easier political reality.

In other words, it's a complex system, and perception is a major factor that affects cycling rates (directly) and safety (indirectly).


Also, anecdotally, I find I get "buzzed" less on roads with a wide right lane than one with a bike lane and a narrower right lane for car traffic. I don't blame drivers for this in the sense that I don't think it is deliberate. I think what is happening is that I am in my lane, and the car driver is in their lane, so all appears good and passing should be no big deal. However, it has happened that I have been passed at distances near 30cm off of my elbow if I am left in the bike lane a bit (debris, visibility, etc) and the car driver is a bit right in theirs. Wider curb lanes tend, in my experience, to leave the cyclist with more room.

Now separate shared urban transportation infrastructure like MUPS that actually go somewhere? I am very much in favour of that kind of thing. Just please oh please city maintain them all winter long. Cyclists, pedestrians, runners, etc will all thank you :)

Peter Parker

I'd be interested to know if there's a better chance of car/car collisions on roads with painted centre lines or those without. It would say as much about the percentage and type of roads with centre lines than it would about the actual improvement in safety of a strip of paint.

All that said, I like bike lanes. This study proves they make people feel safe. Now we need a study which proves that feelings of safety encourage more people to bike and another study which proves increased numbers of cyclists promotes visibility/safety for cyclists. Then we can stop debating whether they directly increase safety directly.

Evan Rosamond

This is an interesting study of where serious but not severe cycling injuries happen. However, some of the data are a bit misleading. The chart in the referenced article raises some questions.

Why are there 13 dots on the chart when the text refers several times to 14 route types/designations? Sidewalks are mentioned in the text but do not appear on the chart. Why not?

How can they claim any precision on the safety of the cycle track when there is only a single 2-block example in their study areas? Maybe they got so few injuries there because nobody uses that track. How can we tell?

It's not clear what is meant by route preference. If it means only the route types that cyclists thought of as safe, then there are some serious problems with their “gut feelings”. For example, the paved multi-use path is their second favourite, but it's also the second least safe.

On the other hand, route preference may be based on the routes that cyclists chose by riding their bikes there. Of course, cyclists use lots of criteria for choosing a route, like shortest distance, lowest grades, best surface, and least noise, not just their assumption of the route's safety. Most important is “will it get me there from here”. With this definition of route preference there's not much you can conclude about anybody's gut feelings.

The study does, however, point out two things that could conceivable improve safety. Apparently, removing parked cars from major streets would reduce cyclists' injuries by 20-35%, and separating cyclists from pedestrians on trails would provide a reduction of about 25%.

The trouble with a generalized study like this is that it hides differences that exist inside the 14 route types. Everybody in K-W (except the City of K) knows how to reduce injuries on the Iron Horse Trail. The biggest improvement will happen when the gates at the Victoria Park rail crossing are removed.

I am thoroughly confused about the concept of the cycle track. This seems to give greater safety in the mid-block areas, the parts that weren't very dangerous in the first place. But at already dangerous intersections, unless I've missed something, there is much more confusion and hence danger than usual. If the 2-directional track is to the right of the roadway, right-turning motorists and left-turning cyclists will have more difficulty than they do at a normal intersection. It has been suggested that this problem will be fixed by separate traffic lights for the cycle track, but that means you will need lights at every intersection. Also, the cycle track shouldn't be used on any street that has driveways or lane entrances.

I once used a mickey mouse sort of cycle track in Montreal. This street had been converted to two motor traffic lanes, one lane for parked cars and a 2-lane 2-direction bike path on the pavement of the old street. There were multiple driveways on the same side as the bike path. The parked cars between the bikes and the motors severely restricted visibility between cyclists and any motorist turning into a driveway. Intersections would have been a zoo, except that there was very little traffic. Before I got to the end of the second block, I came to a car parked in the bike path beside another car parked in the parking lane. After that, I rode in the motor lane.


Well not directly related to the article, but more to do with the headline. It is a matter of having both bike lanes and sharing the road and bike lanes would seem to make it easier to share the road. However it is both the responsibility of the biker(s) and the car(s) to share the road. I have seen increasing instances of bikers riding side by side in the bike lanes. This eliminates the usefulness of the bike lane and makes it a lot harder to share the road. I just want bikers to know that sharing the road isn't one sided.


Lootsma: I don't understand how riding two-abreast would eliminate the usefulness of the bike lane.
In my opinion, it serves an important social function to riding together. There is already an established convention for one of them to move back to let someone pass.

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Bill Bean

  • North America is eventually going to figure out that, for all the right reasons, we need more bicycles on our roads. Dust off your bicycle and go cycling. And if the gas-burning dinosaurs start to crowd you, it's your road and you paid for it. Take the lane for yourself.

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