The UBC School of Population & Public Health has been hosting a research program that has been studying cycling in urban centres. Their research has looked into cycling safety, barriers to getting people to cycle, cycling's effect on air pollution and climate change, and bikeability of communities.
While some research has been done in the past in these areas, this series of research focused on Canadian cities. One of the things that I’ve known for awhile, and was confirmed in a Portland study, was that many people don’t cycling because of the perceived risk of riding with vehicles (with or without a shoulder bike lanes.) The UBC research also confirmed that people prefer:
1.) Off-street bikes paths
2.) Bike lanes (cycle tracks) next to major street, but separated by a physical barrier
3.) Quite residential streets designated as bike route, with traffic calming
Of course, the big question was if the perception of risk also matched the real risk. It also turns out that people's preferred cycling infrastructure is also generally the safest.
|Injury study results on route safety compared to route preferences. Preferences and safety largely agree. Click image to enlarge.|
The Cycling in Cities researchers have put together a brochure on the safest and most risky cycling infrastructure based on research they did in Vancouver and Toronto. It is well worth the read.
I’ve been a strong advocate of off-street and physically separated bike lanes. This research reinforces by belief that cities in the South of Fraser need to be focusing more on providing this kind of infrastructure and really deemphasize building tradition shoulder bike lanes on major roads.
While separated bike lanes on major roads and off-street bike-only paths can be pricey, it seems that one of the most cost effective, safest, and preferred ways to encourage cycling is to work on designating quit residential streets as bike routes. The key is to be make residential street routes that are continuous for pedestrians and cyclist, while preventing rat-running by motorist. This seem to be a win-win for both local residents and active transportation users.