A programme of slowing traffic and separating bicycles in their own lanes are effective ways of reducing the number of cyclists being injured on the roads, a study has shown.
Research at the Ryerson University in Canada, the biggest to be undertaken in the country, saw 690 cyclists who were injured in downtown Toronto and Vancouver between May 2008 and November 2009 being interviewed by researchers.
The paper also found that painted-on cycle lanes in the road had virtually no effect on cyclist injury.
"Previous studies have focused on the measures such as helmets that reduce harm after a crash occurs," Anne Harris, lead author of the study, told Science Daily.
"Our research demonstrates that transportation planners really need to segregate cyclists from motor vehicle traffic just as we use sidewalks to separate pedestrians.
"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."
Of the total number of cyclists, 211 were injured at intersections and 479 injured along roads or paths.
According to Science Daily, here is how the research was carried out:
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.
The main findings of the study were that residential streets had the safest intersections, and that car speeds through intersections at less that 30kmph (18.6 mph) reduced cyclist injuries by 50 per cent.
The findings of conditions that made intersections much less safe were more numerous:
• Traffic circles (roundabouts): 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
• Roads that slope downhill are more dangerous than uphill roads
• Arriving at the intersection in the opposite direction of vehicular traffic
Other general conditions for safer cycling included:
• Separated bike lanes along major streets
• Bike routes with traffic diversion on local streets
• Bike-only paths separated from traffic
And those that made cycling along city roads less safe:
• Streetcar tracks
• Downhill grade
• Construction at site
• Shared bike lanes or single bike lanes with parked cars present