UBC Researchers to investigate cycling safety
VANCOUVER: Today marks the beginning of Bike Month, an initiative designed to promote cycling and to encourage people to trade four wheels for two. However, many would-be cyclists may be hesitant to take up cycling due to concerns about safety. That’s why a research team based at the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto is launching a study to investigate which types of cycling routes are safest.
“When you ask people why they don’t cycle more often, the most common answer is safety, yet the best evidence for improving safety is for more people to cycle,” says Kay Teschke, Professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and lead investigator of the new study. Many northern European cities boast cycling levels many times higher than those of Canada or the United States and cyclists there are less likely to suffer serious injuries than in North America. Cycling also provides many health benefits (increased physical fitness, decreased obesity and chronic diseases, reduced air and noise pollution), so it is a wonderful mode of transportation to use.
There are a number of theories for why cycling in Europe is both safer and more popular than in North America. One theory relates to transportation infrastructure: European cities most often feature cycle paths separated from motorized traffic, while Canadian cyclists are more likely to be sharing the road with parked and moving cars. “The relative safety of these two styles of infrastructure has been the subject of much debate among cycling researchers and advocates, but little research,” explains Teschke.
The new study will attempt to fill this knowledge gap by collecting extensive data about cycling injuries in Vancouver and Toronto. The research team is working with hospitals in both cities to recruit patients who have visited emergency rooms due to a cycling injury. They will interview injured cyclists, and then will conduct site observations to collect information on route characteristics. The team will record information about the injury site and about two other randomly selected sites along the route. This will allow the team to estimate the risks of different route types (for example, designated bike routes compared to mixed-use routes), and of distinct points on routes (for example, intersections compared to straight-aways).
Transportation planners from Vancouver and Toronto are involved in the study, contributing technical expertise and information about transportation networks to the project. “We are always happy to obtain more data about potentially risky situations for cyclists, especially when the data is directly related to our local conditions” says Peter Stary, the Bicycle Program Coordinator for the City of Vancouver. Stary says that the study results may be used to help develop countermeasures for route characteristics found to contribute to bicycle crashes.
More information about the study can be found on the ‘Cycling in Cities’ website at www.cher.ubc.ca/cyclingincities. The study is funded under a strategic Request for Applications in the area of the Built Environment, Obesity and Health launched by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and its partners the CIHR Institutes of Aging; of Circulatory and Respiratory Health; of Human Development, of Child and Youth Health; of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis; of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes; and of Population and Public Health.
The Centre for Health and Environment Research is a multidisciplinary research centre funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. It provides infrastructure support for investigators who research and prevent diseases caused by hazards in outdoor and indoor environments. For more information, please visit www.cher.ubc.ca
For more information, please contact:
UBC Centre for Health and Environment Research
School of Population and Public Health, and
School of Environmental Health