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Harvard research findings - cycletracks safer than on street cycling

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Harvard research findings - cycletracks safer than on street cycling

Old 02-25-11, 06:01 PM
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Harvard research findings - cycletracks safer than on street cycling

I hadn't seen this report mentioned at BFs yet, it was just published at the peer reviewed Journal of Injury Prevention -

a study of Montreal cycletracks found them to be safer than cycling similar on street bike routes. one of the few extant studies on the relative safety of North American cycletracks.

Journal of Injury Prevention article on relative safety of cycletracks by Harvard Researcher Dr Anne Lusk


I'm sure the epistemologically minded can find some variance that hasn't been normalized by Dr Lusk, but research on North American cycletracks in Montreal show favorable safety compared to similar on street bike routes.

from the abstract: "These data suggest that the injury risk of bicycling on cycle tracks is less than bicycling in streets. The construction of cycle tracks should not be discouraged."

I have every expectation the reporting will be similar from New York City and its nascent network of cycle tracks.
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Old 02-25-11, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
I hadn't seen this report mentioned at BFs yet,.......I have every expectation the reporting will be similar from New York City and its nascent network of cycle tracks.

Bek do the tracks offer any other advantages also? Are they cheaper? Easier to maintain, etc?

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Old 02-25-11, 06:44 PM
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Is this one of those "duh" moments?

I mean some cyclists keep mentioning the potential for injury on cycle tracks (paths?) but that "potential" generally means bruises and scratches vice "instant death" from "a fast moving very large object."
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Old 02-25-11, 06:51 PM
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Research on safety of north american cyclists isn't a duh moment at all.

Roughstuff, what other benefits from cycletracks wasn't what this study was looking at, but the researchers mention in the introduction,

"Bicycling could address obesity, cancer, stroke, diabetes, asthma, mortality and pollution. However, the bicycling environment is a limiting factor. The predominant bicycle facilities in The Netherlands and Denmark are cycle tracks, or bicycle paths along streets that are physically separated from motor traffic, bicycle-exclusive and with a parallel sidewalk. Due to the separation from vehicles afforded by 29 000 km of cycle tracks in The Netherlands plus other initiatives, 27% of Dutch trips are by bicycle, 55% are women, and the bicyclist injury rate is 0.14 injured/million km.

In the USA, 0.5% of commuters bicycle to work, only 24% of adult cyclists are women. and the US injury rate of bicyclists is at least 26 times greater than in The Netherlands. The chief obstacle to bicycling, especially for women, children and seniors is perceived danger of vehicular traffic."

are there any other advantages? Sundry.
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Old 02-25-11, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
Research on safety of north american cyclists isn't a duh moment at all.
No, it's not, but that conclusion is along the lines of "if you go out in the rain, you'll get wet." That is the "duh."
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Old 02-25-11, 09:19 PM
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The question isn't the relative safety of well-designed cycle paths vs. on street biking. The question is the feasibility of getting those put in everywhere that bicyclists might want to go. We are never going to have a totally separate road system for bikes in the U.S., so we need to improve safety on existing roads as a primary consideration. There simply is no political will to fund a separated system most places.
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Old 02-25-11, 10:00 PM
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Rue Rachel i think has the worst injury rate because the bicycle lane is to the right of the parking lane.

If non-intersection crashes are included to match this 26% proportion, reanalysis of the Wachtel and Lewiston22 data in the article shows that there is no significant difference in risk between the sidewalk bikeway and the street (table 4). For bicyclists riding in the same direction as traffic, as would be case with one-way cycle tracks, sidewalk bikeways carried only half the risk of the street.

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Old 02-25-11, 10:03 PM
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feasibility of getting cycletracks put in everywhere bicyclists might want to go or having a totally separate system for bikes?

No, that's not the issue. those are stuffing for the strawman.

Cycletracks serve as a backbone of a cycle network, even for cities in Europe. Look at Vancouver Montreal or New York City for limited applications of north american cycletracks serving important cycling corridors.

The element of the study that is notable is that cycletracks are safer, or at least no more dangerous, than similar on street bicycling.

The side benefits and potential benefits - to civic health, air quality, senior mobility, child obesity, etc - from having a robust network of cycletracks are multifarious, noted, and intertwined.
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Old 02-25-11, 10:25 PM
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One problem I had with the study is that it compared streets with cycle-tracks to other streets that had only about a third as many cyclists. They then concluded that since the cycle-track streets only had about twice as many accidents while carrying almost three times as many cyclists this showed that they were safer; i.e. although the number of accidents increased, the accident *rate* was lower.

The problem with this conclusion is that as traffic volumes increase it's almost always found that the number of accidents doesn't increase as fast as the traffic volume. So the results they observed would be about as expected no matter what method is used to increase cyclist traffic. If you had someone handing out free donut coupons to cyclists on one of the reference streets and therefore encouraging more riders to use it then I'd also expect the number of accidents to increase but not by as much as the number of cyclists. The researchers, using the same analysis as in this study, could then conclude that donut coupons reduce the accident *rate* and make cycling safer.

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Old 02-25-11, 11:00 PM
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Come on Bek. The bike facility difference may well not be the key difference causing the difference in safety for cyclists in Europe versus America. Most European countries have this little feature called strict liability. That means the motorist is presumed guilty in any wreck involving a cyclist or pedestrian. That is quite different from here where the cyclist is presumed guilty. Add in mandatory driver training, more expensive fuel, actual traffic law enforcement and a less entitled motorist culture and I think one could make a case for Europe being a safer place to cycle with or without the infrastructure they have put in.

By the way, I read an interview with the author of the article in the local campus paper here. She said the difference in injury rates between the cycletracks and the streets with no infrastructure was insignificant. Ouch. Kind of difficult to justify spending large amounts of money for something that leads to an insignificant increase in safety.
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Old 02-26-11, 01:29 AM
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Originally Posted by mnemia View Post
The question isn't the relative safety of well-designed cycle paths vs. on street biking. The question is the feasibility of getting those put in everywhere that bicyclists might want to go. We are never going to have a totally separate road system for bikes in the U.S., so we need to improve safety on existing roads as a primary consideration. There simply is no political will to fund a separated system most places.
+1,000

Even if we could get the motoring public and politicians to agree that installing separate cycle tracks/paths are "best" for everyone. Getting them to cough up the money as well as the land to build a separate AND equal infrastructure just for bicycles would be next to impossible. If for no other reason than it is safe to say that most motorists don't want to do anything to help cyclists, and property owners are not going to want to "give up" a part of their property to facilitate such a project.

Even if one could secure the money and the land to build them, where exactly would they be built? And would the cycle track/path regular road intersections be handled? How about entrances into shopping malls, grocery stores, etc. be handled?
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Old 02-26-11, 09:19 AM
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Arguing that cycletracks are infeasible because they need to be omniopresent is a strawman.

New York City and Vancouver BC have nascent urban cycletracks and separate street-adjacent paths that serve as a backbone of a transportation system for bicyclists.

Cycletracks are not planned for and not going to be placed on every street in Manhattan or downtown Vancouver.

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Old 02-26-11, 09:35 AM
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In Solana Beach we have a cycletrack along Lomas Santa Fe Dr., under I-5. The bike lane and the sidewalk are physically separated from the main travel lanes by the bridge pillars. Cyclists happily ride along their protected cycletrack, only to emerge at one of the interchange's cloverleaf-style onramps, where they are perfectly set up for a high-speed right hook.

Because of the inherent intersection conflict dangers, the only places cycletracks work are in countries with strict liability laws and/or along lower-speed streets. I would not object to cycletracks along prime arterials or freeways, but only with either grade separated or otherwise safely controlled intersections. Nasty little details such as right-on-red and motorists accustomed to blasting ahead on right turns w/o looking for pedestrians are realities to which cycletrack designers should pay far more attention.

I spend as much time walking/jogging as bicycling, and I have far more frequent close calls and intersection conflicts w/ turning motorists as a pedestrian, essentially operating on a "pedtrack," aka sidewlak.
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Old 02-26-11, 09:38 AM
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No, it's not a strawman. Your argument is that they are safer and therefore should be built. If that's so, then there is no way for them to seriously impact safety unless they can be used for a large percentage of the distance on a large percentage of trips by bike. And that is not possible unless they are relatively dense in an area. In a place like Manhattan, you can probably achieve that density without having them on every street. In more sprawling areas, that's not so, because the distances are greater.

But, I would argue that dense, gridded, older cities are the places that need this kind of facility least. Bicycling those places is already relatively doable. It's the high speed suburban arterials that most need separated infrastructure, in my view. And yet they rarely seem to get it. City planners are too busy putting bike lanes on 25 mph residential roads.

I'm not saying you're totally wrong so much as I'm saying you need to take a more expansive view of where bicyclists might need to go and currently can't.
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Old 02-26-11, 09:53 AM
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Cycletracks do not need to blanket every street in a community to impact safety and ridership.

North America installations of a variety of bikeways work in concert to build a bicycle network, not every street merits a bikelane in a bike master plan. Sophmoric proclamations about the need for blanket facilities everywhere, or that this is what is indicated by the Harvard study on cycletracks, is not a realistic portrayal of planning for safer roadway bicycling.

For those arguing about no political will to fund solutions, suburban roads would exhibit better economies of scale thru implementation of quality roadway infrastructure improvements versus separate infrastructure. Barrier separated or buffered Class II bikeways may be sufficient to encourage ridership, and are much more economical for those sprawling, low density suburbs. What's really nice for bicycling in suburbs are totally separate path networks, that link up to suburban developments, and feed bicyclists to the city center bikeway network and other regional bikeway networks.

Cycletracks are safer or at least no more dangerous than on street cycling, and they encourage more riding, so should be considered where applicable. On roads where cycletracks may be applicable as part of a bicycle network or proposed bicycle network, they should be considered versus on street planning that has been the norm in America.

Prospect Park West in New York City is an example of a complete streets treatment - that included a parking protected 2 way cycletrack bikeway - that has had positive effects on traffic of all types along prospect Park west. Less speeding, less pedestrian and bicycle accidents, less car crashes, greater bicyclist use.

The researchers even got into the background of the 'cyclists fare best' vacuity, and suggest the engineering bias against cycletracks in the US may be a result of punting and bluffery.

Last edited by Bekologist; 02-26-11 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 02-26-11, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mnemia View Post
The question isn't the relative safety of well-designed cycle paths vs. on street biking. The question is the feasibility of getting those put in everywhere that bicyclists might want to go. We are never going to have a totally separate road system for bikes in the U.S., so we need to improve safety on existing roads as a primary consideration. There simply is no political will to fund a separated system most places.
While we may never have well designed paths everywhere... there should be a consideration for the installation of such paths wherever a high speed road exists. Of course the counter solution is lower the speed limits. In my area for instance there are many arterial roads with speed limits of 50 and even 65 MPH... if motorists honestly need to travel that fast, they should just use the nearby freeway, rather than using surface streets as freeways.
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Old 02-26-11, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
In Solana Beach we have a cycletrack along Lomas Santa Fe Dr., under I-5. The bike lane and the sidewalk are physically separated from the main travel lanes by the bridge pillars. Cyclists happily ride along their protected cycletrack, only to emerge at one of the interchange's cloverleaf-style onramps, where they are perfectly set up for a high-speed right hook.

Because of the inherent intersection conflict dangers, the only places cycletracks work are in countries with strict liability laws and/or along lower-speed streets. I would not object to cycletracks along prime arterials or freeways, but only with either grade separated or otherwise safely controlled intersections. Nasty little details such as right-on-red and motorists accustomed to blasting ahead on right turns w/o looking for pedestrians are realities to which cycletrack designers should pay far more attention.

I spend as much time walking/jogging as bicycling, and I have far more frequent close calls and intersection conflicts w/ turning motorists as a pedestrian, essentially operating on a "pedtrack," aka sidewlak.
John I know the area you speak of... of course the reason that particular design "fails" is because motorists were given priority, and the sidewalk and bike path were shoehorned in. It is this inequality toward different modes of transit (in spite of the fact that we are all human) that tends to cause the problems. Motor vehicles are given priority, even though the human inside the motor vehicle can in a moment be a driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian. America needs to reset their priorities, and realize that humans are more important than machines.
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Old 02-26-11, 11:02 AM
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Mixing biketraffic into streets or other facilities can be done at the termini or intersections of cycletracks by a variety of methods.

Engineering fixes for mixing cyclist traffic into high speed freeway merges are nebulous regardless.

Last edited by Bekologist; 02-26-11 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 02-26-11, 11:45 AM
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Picayune debates aside, this study is more about legitimizing a piece of the puzzle, rather than pointing out another 'holy grail'. And that's what cycletracks are -- another piece of the puzzle. Some work better than others overall, all have their own place, though.

The most-ignored, and therefore most-forgotten, piece of the puzzle, is the SOCIAL engineering aspect; as long as people see the government spending "THEIR" tax money on projects that don't benefit them, they have issues. (People need to realize it's no longer "their' money anymore once the Uncle gets his fingers on it....)

This country (and the world, for that matter, at the risk of getting on a maudlin soapbox) isn't populated by special interests, it's populated by people; and as long as THESE particular people embrace and demand individuality (and in the same breath deny it to others), the social engineering is going to be the toughest.

I don't WANT cycletracks and dedicated bike paths everywhere; hell, singletrack is enough for some areas (yes, IN town!). What I DO want is for people who choose to drive to respect my choice to pedal.

Engineer THAT, and the rest will be superfluous.
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Old 02-26-11, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post

I don't WANT cycletracks and dedicated bike paths everywhere; hell, singletrack is enough for some areas (yes, IN town!). What I DO want is for people who choose to drive to respect my choice to pedal.

Engineer THAT, and the rest will be superfluous.
+1000. True dat!
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Old 02-26-11, 12:22 PM
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Congrats to Harvard peeps on figuring out that being separated from cars most of the way is safer. I didn't know you need to be in a prestigious school to figure that one out.
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Old 02-26-11, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post
What I DO want is for people who choose to drive to respect my choice to pedal.

Engineer THAT, and the rest will be superfluous.
Trying to go through and all the data has my head hurting. Thanks DX-Man for putting things into perspective.
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Old 02-26-11, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post
Picayune debates aside, this study is more about legitimizing a piece of the puzzle, rather than pointing out another 'holy grail'. And that's what cycletracks are -- another piece of the puzzle. Some work better than others overall, all have their own place, though.

The most-ignored, and therefore most-forgotten, piece of the puzzle, is the SOCIAL engineering aspect; as long as people see the government spending "THEIR" tax money on projects that don't benefit them, they have issues. (People need to realize it's no longer "their' money anymore once the Uncle gets his fingers on it....)

This country (and the world, for that matter, at the risk of getting on a maudlin soapbox) isn't populated by special interests, it's populated by people; and as long as THESE particular people embrace and demand individuality (and in the same breath deny it to others), the social engineering is going to be the toughest.

I don't WANT cycletracks and dedicated bike paths everywhere; hell, singletrack is enough for some areas (yes, IN town!). What I DO want is for people who choose to drive to respect my choice to pedal.

Engineer THAT, and the rest will be superfluous.
+1,000

I agree with you on that.
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Old 02-26-11, 03:02 PM
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Did they actually compare similar streets? I looked at the first set the researchers used on Google maps. The street with the cycle track is one way. The reference street is two way. The one way street is going to have fewer turning conflicts and will have fewer collisions regardless of whether or not a cycle track is there.
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Old 02-26-11, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by mnemia View Post
The question isn't the relative safety of well-designed cycle paths vs. on street biking. The question is the feasibility of getting those put in everywhere that bicyclists might want to go. We are never going to have a totally separate road system for bikes in the U.S., so we need to improve safety on existing roads as a primary consideration. There simply is no political will to fund a separated system most places.
There's no money and no room.
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