Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 20th, 2009 at 10:05 am
"The government is pushing bike days, and rebates for bike use. Communities are putting in bicycle kiosks." However, there is only limited data to show that "we have bikeways to support this increase in bike use."
-- from a Reuters story about a new study on bicycle-related injuries
A new study from Colorado has found that bicycle-related injuries in the United States are becoming more severe, leading researchers to conclude that bike infrastructure is not keeping up with the increased number of riders.
The findings stem from a study of 329 bicycle injuries treated at the Rocky Mountain Regional Trauma Center at Denver Health Medical Center from 1996 to 2006...
The rise in injury severity likely reflects an increased rate of "motor vehicle associated injuries, which might suggest, along with a trend toward older age, that the injuries occurred in commuters more frequently than the past, as opposed to recreational riders,"...
Although the public is very enthusiastic about bicycle use as a means of transportation, we think that infrastructure has lagged behind in the US," he [researcher Dr. Jeffry Kashuk] explained. "The government is pushing bike days, and rebates for bike use. Communities are putting in bicycle kiosks." However, there is only limited data to show that "we have bikeways to support this increase in bike use."
The size of the study is very small, but if the number of people that have emailed it to us is any indication, its conclusions have garnered attention (it's also worth noting that Denver isn't exactly known for being a safe biking haven; it's currently a "Bronze" level Bicycle Friendly Community).
However, if this trend was typical for other cities, it would seem to fly in the face of a very important study often cited by bike advocates and planners that says a rise in bike use actually makes biking safer. I'm referring to Peter Jacobsen's "Safety in numbers" paper that was published in 2003.
As more cities around the country push to encourage cycling, Jacobsen's hypothesis -- which is not without its detractors (usually those who also espouse the edicts of "vehicular cycling" like John Forester and John Schubert) -- is also gaining attention. It's cited in the recently released Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 and the idea shows up in this Scientific American podcast published last month (and note the comments below it from the aforementioned Schubert and Forester).
In Portland, traffic safety experts have found that Jacobsen's theory holds true -- the rate of bicycle crashes has gone down as bike use has gone up. Futhermore, according to Greg Raisman with the Bureau of Transportation, as bike use has increased, the safety of streets for all road users has improved.
However, I've also heard PBOT's bike coordinator Roger Geller admit that many of Portland's existing bikeways have not kept up with the skyrocketing growth in the number of people who use them.
What do you think? Is an obligation to protect new riders a strong argument for advocates in pushing for quicker implementation of bikeways? Or is the Denver study just an anomaly?Email This Post Possibly related posts
- OHSU study looks at how "environmental factors" impact bike safety
- City Club of Portland to ODOT: Status quo on Barbur is "unacceptable"
- OHSU plans bike injury prevention study
- The research is in: You're safer in the bike lane (or bike boulevard, or cycle track)
- PSU Seminar: Where Do People Bicycle? Infrastructure and Bicycle Behavior