Canadian bike lane study confirms what cyclists already know

Plus an unexpected safety bonus

December 13th, 2019 by | Posted in News | Tags: , , ,

A new study out of Toronto has examined the safety effects of newly added cycle tracks in the downtown core. To the shock of no one, the results are overwhelmingly positive, even including some unexpected benefits.

When dealing with cycling traffic, most major Canadian cities employ two solutions. The first, bike lanes, are divisions painted on the road. Some bike lanes are filled in completely in a solid colour but most only offer a painted line as “protection” from motorized traffic. The second solution is the implementation of cycle tracks, dedicated lanes with a physical separation or barrier between bicycles and vehicles.

Photo: Ling et al.

A safety halo

The study, conducted in Toronto’s downtown core, examined police reports of cyclist/motor vehicle collisions two years pre- and two years post-cycle track implementation. The researchers also used data from the City of Toronto to calculate the average number of cyclists using the roads before and after the tracks were installed.
The study found that streets draw 2.57 times more cyclists once cycle tracks are installed. Even though there were more bikes on the roads, there was a 38 per cent reduction in cyclist/motor vehicle collisions. The safety benefits of the cycle tracks extend beyond the roads they occupy. Streets between 151 m – 550 m from the cycle tracks benefit from what researchers call a safety halo effect. The streets themselves do not contain cycle tracks but they still saw a 35 per cent reduction in cyclist/motor vehicle collisions after cycle tracks were installed in their vicinity. These findings imply there is an area-wide safety effect of cycle tracks, impacting even cyclists who aren’t using roads with bike paths.

Vision Zero

Toronto’s five-year Vision Zero road safety initiative is rolling into its penultimate year with hardly any results to show. Initiatives to decrease traffic fatalities have had no tangible impact, with the number of fatal collisions in the past five years seeing a general increase compared to the previous five years. The positive results of this study offer an option for the city to consider when deciding how to tackle cycling deaths in the GTA.