Even though common sense points to the idea that bicyclists would be safer if they had their own dedicated lanes away from motorists, there has actually been a long held belief in the U.S. that the opposite is true. It has only been in recent years that moves have been made to give bicycles their own space on the road. However, there are finally studies that support the idea that bicyclists are safer when they are given their own lane to ride in, versus sharing the road with motorized vehicles.
Two Bicycle Lane Studies In Canada
It was in Canada that research finally was completed to give evidence supporting dedicated bike lanes for safety purposes. The first was published in the British Medical Journal in February 2011. The study looked at the safety of bicycle tracks that are physically removed from roadways compared to bicycles sharing roadways. The research was conducted in Montreal on six cycle tracks located off of the roadways.
The Montreal study concluded that the bicycle tracks encouraged more people to ride, accounting for 2.5 times the amount of bicyclists then on adjacent roads. In addition, injuries were reduced by up to 28% on some paths, and less overall, than bicyclists injuries sustained on roadways. The study alluded to the fact that the health and environment benefits along with the improved safety all showed in favor of the addition of bicycle tracks or lanes.
The second, more recent study was published in the American Journal of Public Health in February 2012. This study looked at fourteen different bicycle tracks or routes in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada. One of the routes was a separate bicycle track and others were various types of streets and roadways. The track or route with the least amount of risk of injury was the separate bike track, one-ninth the risk of a major road with no bike infrastructure.
Evidence Proves Common Sense
The findings of these studies is not really surprising, it seems to be common sense. For whatever reason, separate bike lanes or tracks have been discouraged by engineers and government consultants for years. It is hard to say why this belief has been so prevalent, possibly because of the additional costs that separate bike lanes would present. Regardless of the reason, the research is valuable in the fact that it shows that safety would be improved for bicyclists by the investment in these separate bike lanes. It also suggests that it would encourage more people to choose the healthier and greener option of riding a bike versus always using a vehicle for transportation.
It will be interesting to see whether these studies help change the perception in the U.S. regarding bike lanes. Already more and more cities are adding safer lanes dedicated to bikes, even if they are still part of the roadways. It is a positive step forward to moving toward a better system for bicyclists to travel safely.