Since roughly WWII we’ve been designing roads and streets for only one purpose: the automobile. Before the 20th century roads were designed to move people around efficiently, today roads are incredibly dangerous for people who are outside of metal containers. Australians are starting to do something about this lack of safety on streets already and are looking for was to make how we navigate our roadways even safer.
The next step is to respond in ways that keep returning attention to the facts from best evidence. To repeat, whether you’re a driver, occupant, pedestrian or cyclist, roughly 90% of what causes death on Australia’s roads is driver behaviour.
For cyclists, the root cause of deadly harm is aggression and inattention. Drivers should be held to account and be pushed to change their behaviour and attitudes.
Simple inexpensive changes in the law have been found to have dramatic effects on driver behaviour. These changes also work with existing infrastructure, technology, road conditions and our cultural expressions of human nature
Another welcome measure is a recent initiative to reduce urban speed limits to 30km/h. This has just been implemented in one of Melbourne’s inner urban areas without too much fuss. According to the research behind it, you’re twice as likely to survive being hit at 30km/h as at 40km/h.
The worst mayor in Canada hates people who don’t drive automobiles and thinks cyclists deserve to die. The mayor of Toronto wants to remove bike lanes (while every smart city is installing more) despite the fact that the number of cyclists has increased. So where’s the good news you ask?
It turns out (much to the chagrin of mayor Rob Ford) that bike lanes improve safety for all road users!
The Toronto Cyclists Union has drummed up a City staff report that compares crash data in the three years previous to the bike lanes and the one year with the bike lanes. The report finds that the overall crash rate for Jarvis has actually decreased by 23 percent. That’s for all road users—bicycles, cars, and pedestrians. In fact, the report notes that “most of this reduction can be attributed to the reduction in collisions involving motor vehicle turning movements and collisions involving pedestrians.”
But the bike lanes have also been better for cyclists. While the number of bicycle-car collisions has increased from an average of 7 per year in the three years prior to the bike lane to 15 in the year with the bike lane, the report notes this still represents a drop in the rate of collision when you take into consideration the fact that the number of bicycles increased threefold post-bike lane implementation.
In a recent report from the City of Minneapolis (recently voted the best city in the US to ride), data shows that the more cyclists are on the roads, the fewer the collisions there are between cars and bikes.
For 2008, the most recent year for which complete data were available, the crash rate was one-quarter that of 10 years earlier. Moreover, a trend line shows a steady decrease in the crash rate even as the number of commuting cyclists more than doubled.
These findings are consistent with other cities too!
It squares with a 2003 analysis on biking and walking in two California cities. “A person is less likely to collide with a person walking or biking if more people walk or bicycle,” public health consultant Peter Jacobsen wrote in the journal Injury Prevention.
So if you want to feel safer on your bike, get your friends on the road too!