Physical separation of cyclists from traffic “crucial” to dropping injury rates, shows U.S. study

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health has concluded that physical separation from motor traffic is “crucial” to reducing the higher than average cyclist injury rates seen across the U.S.

In an leading editorial to sit alongside the deeper study, the authors write: “bicycle infrastructure can indeed help improve cycling safety and increase cycling levels. That is clearly demonstrated by decades of evidence from Europe, by the 10 US cities listed in Table 1 (below), and by the article on Boston by Pedroso et al. However, the type and quality of bicycle infrastructure matter as well. It is crucial to provide physical separation from fast-moving, high-volume motor vehicle traffic and better intersection design to avoid conflicts between cyclists and motor vehicles. More and better bicycle infrastructure and safer cycling would encourage Americans to make more of their daily trips by bicycle and, thus, help raise the currently low physical activity levels of the US population.”

Demonstrating the correlation between the growth of the cycling infrastructure and decline in injury and fatality figures, in all ten of the U.S. cities analysed progress was made.

Leading the pack, Minneapolis grew its cycle network by 113% between 2000 and 2015, delivering a 79% reduction in severe injuries per 100,000 cycle journeys. This also tallied with a 203% growth in cycling in the areas where safe infrastructure was present.

Citing a further study of differing types of cycling infrastructure in Canada, the editorial writes that an 89% increase in safety was noted on streets with physical separation over streets where no such infrastructure existed. Unprotected cycling space was found to be 53% safer.

In 2014 there were 902 recorded cyclists fatalities in America and 35,206 serious injuries. Per kilometre cycled fatalities per 100 million kilometres cycled sat at 4.7. In the Netherlands and Denmark those rates sit at 1 and 1.1, respectively.

table 1