Safe? Sez Who?

So, yeah, everyone just assumes that segregated bicycle facilities are safer than the street because, well, duh!

Maybe not so much. Take a look at this list of studies complied by Ian Brett Cooper at The Desegregated Cyclist.

Here are few highlights:

“An additional problem is establishment of a visual relationship between motor vehicles and cycles… on approaches to intersections.”

“Surprisingly, bicycle facilities where no motor vehicles are allowed showed the highest accident rate of any variable examined.”

“…with increasing experience, it became ever clearer that the sidepaths are dangerous – more dangerous than riding in the roadway. There is a simple reason for this: the design and location of the sidepaths conflict with the most important principle of traffic safety, the slogan ‘Visibility is safety’.”

“Experts from different backgrounds at the Velo Secur traffic safety conference in Salzburg were united in the opinion that sidepaths in urban areas are entirely unsatisfactory in many ways, and should not be used.”

“The conclusion that can be drawn so far from combining results shows that the most likely effect of introducing a cycle path is that the risk will increase by about 40% for a passing cyclist.”

“The relative rates for falls and injuries suggest it is safest to cycle on-road followed by off-road paths and trails, and finally least safe on sidewalks… Results suggest a need to discourage sidewalk cycling, and to further investigate the safety of off-road paths/trails.”

“The most common conflicting areas between motorised traffic and vulnerable road users are at junctions… While cycle tracks have been found efficient in decreasing bicycle accidents on links, particularly on arterials, they create safety problems at junctions.”

“At crossings, car drivers focus their attention on other cars rather than on cyclists… the risk of a crossing accident is 3-times higher for cyclists coming from a cycle path than when crossing on the carriageway amongst cars.”

“Bicyclists on a sidewalk or bicycle path incur greater risk than those on the roadway (on average 1.8 times as great), most likely because of blind conflicts at intersections… intersections, construed broadly, are the major point of conflict between bicycles and motor vehicles. Separation of bicycles and motor vehicles leads to blind conflicts at these intersections.”

“The safety effects of bicycle tracks in urban areas are an increase of about 10 percent in both crashes and injuries. The safety effects of bicycle lanes in urban areas are an increase of 5 percent in crashes and 15 percent in injuries. Bicyclists’ safety has worsened on roads where bicycle facilities have been implemented.”

“…evidence suggests that the points at which segregated networks intersect with highways offer heightened risk, potentially of sufficient magnitude to offset the safety benefits of removing cyclists from contact with vehicles in other locations.”

Be careful what you ask for.


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Comments 2

  1. Steve A wrote:

    Everyone? In my many encounters with paths, I have concluded they represent greater hazard to cyclists EVEN AFTER eliminating crossing hazards. Crossing hazards can largely be mitigated by careful cyclist operation – bollards, rocks and glass, hidden dropoffs at the edge of the path, dogs and … Not so easy. It is why I seem to have more than 10X falls per mile on paths. They are pleasant despite their fall danger.

    Posted 05 Aug 2012 at 8:59 am
  2. Angelo Dolce wrote:

    My general impression from public meetings is that bicycle facilities are built by planners that don’t think bicycle transportation is possible, so speed is not an issue they consider.

    These paths usually are safe if they are used at pedestrian speeds. This is true even of the trails built for commuters with transportation funds – since they are built and administered by Parks & Recreation, the usual park rules apply (closed after dark, unreliable snow removal, etc.)

    The intended users seem to be children and families, not “bicycle people” that want to ride faster than 6-8 mph.

    Posted 05 Aug 2012 at 9:00 pm

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