Skip to content

Posts from the Bicycle Safety Category

130 Comments

Study: Sharrows Don’t Make Streets Safer for Cycling

Sharrows are the dregs of bike infrastructure — the scraps cities hand out when they can’t muster the will to implement exclusive space for bicycling. They may help with wayfinding, but do sharrows improve the safety of cycling at all? New research presented at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting suggests they don’t.

Sharrows are useless and perhaps even harmful, a new study found. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

Sharrows without traffic-calming won’t do much to make cycling safer. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

A study by University of Colorado Denver researchers Nick Ferenchak and Wesley Marshall examined safety outcomes for areas in Chicago that received bike lanes, sharrows, and no bicycling street treatments at all. (The study was conducted before Chicago had much in the way of protected bike lanes, so it did not distinguish between types of bike lanes.) The results suggest that bike lanes encourage more people to bike and make biking safer, while sharrows don’t do much of either.

Ferenchak and Marshall’s study divided Chicago into three geographic categories using Census block groups: areas where bike lanes were added between 2008 and 2010, areas where sharrows were added, and areas where no bike treatments were added. They then looked at how bike commuting and cyclist injuries changed in these areas over time.

They found that bike commute rates more than doubled in areas with new bike lanes, compared to a 27 percent increase in areas with new sharrows and a 43 percent increase in areas where nothing changed.

Meanwhile, the rate of cyclist injuries per bike commuter improved the most where bike lanes were striped, decreasing 42 percent. Areas that got sharrows saw the same metric fall about 20 percent –worse than areas where streets didn’t change (36 percent), although the difference was not great enough to be statistically significant.

Read more…

6 Comments

What Happened When a Newspaper Became an Advocate for Bicyclists

In too many cities, newspaper coverage of bicycling has stoked some of the darker aspects of human nature. Opinion pieces about bike lanes tend to cater to the reactionary opposition, goading the trolls of the comments section, where casual death threats are standard fare.

News Press reporters Janine Zeitlin and Laura Ruane accept an award for their coverage of bike safety issues in South Florida. Photo: Florida Department of Health via News Press

News-Press reporters Janine Zeitlin (center) and Laura Ruane (right) accept an award for their coverage of bike safety issues in South Florida. Photo: Florida Department of Health via News Press

But a newspaper in South Florida has taken a very different approach over the last few years, unabashedly advocating for safer streets for cycling. And it’s earning accolades in the process.

The News-Press in the Fort Myers, Florida, region won praise from the Columbia Journalism Review and local safety advocates for its “Share the Road” series, highlighting the danger faced by cyclists in a deadly corner of the deadliest state for biking.

Starting in the summer of 2014, News-Press reporters have shed light on bicyclist fatalities on local roads, and what can be done to stop the loss of life.

In the year the series launched, eight cyclists were killed in Lee County (population 661,000), the News-Press reported. By comparison, in Portland (population 609,000), one cyclist was killed in 2014 and zero in 2013.

The News-Press dug into the problem, running a feature on each of the 12 people killed while biking in Lee and Collier counties, which include the communities of Naples, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers. These areas are both huge tourist destinations and home to lots of low-income workers and immigrants. The roads are notoriously dangerous for people walking or biking.

Led by reporter Janine Zeitlin, who used to bike but stopped because it felt too risky, the News-Press combed through data about what was causing the collisions. Among the factors they identified: “wide and fast roadways,” “lagging infrastructure and laws,” “bad drivers,” and “lack of safety education.”

Read more…

12 Comments

Federal Report: Bad Street Design a Factor in Rising Ped/Bike Fatalities

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 2.40.09 PM

A new report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office [PDF] examines why people walking or biking account for a rising share of traffic deaths in the United States. While the conclusions aren’t exactly earth-shattering, one culprit the GAO identified is street design practices that seek primarily to move cars.

The investigation was ordered by U.S. representatives Rick Larsen (Washington State), Peter DeFazio (Oregon) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) in response to increasing pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Between 2004 and 2013, traffic deaths dropped steadily for drivers, but inched up for people walking or biking, according to the GAO. The cause of the discrepancy isn’t clear.

The GAO interviewed officials from state and local transportation agencies, U.S. DOT, and bike and pedestrian advocacy groups about obstacles to safety. Its conclusions reflect the attitudes of the institutions that were interviewed, without adding much in the way of data analysis.

One factor the GAO points to, for instance, is “alcohol use” — a favorite of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (one of the groups interviewed). This can refer to both drunk driving or a victim who was struck while drunk. The GAO notes that in 14 percent of pedestrian fatalities, the victim was drunk or high. But the report presents no data to support the notion that intoxicated pedestrians account for the rising share of pedestrian fatalities. Nor is it clear why alcohol-related fatalities would increase for pedestrians and cyclists while declining in the aggregate.

Another part of the report, however, does delve into institutional obstacles to safer streets. The GAO notes that many transportation agencies, especially state agencies, still don’t see protecting pedestrians and bicyclists as a priority.

Read more…

5 Comments

Zig Zag Road Striping Calms Traffic in Virginia

Virginia Department of Transportation installed these zig zag pavement markings to caution drivers about the potential for pedestrians and cyclists by a popular trail crossing. Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation

Virginia DOT installed these zig zag markings to caution drivers approaching the intersection of a popular walking and biking trail. Photo: Virginia DOT

At 11 points in northern Virginia, the familiar straight dashed lines on the road gives way to a series of zig zags. The unusual markings, the result of a pilot project from the Virginia Department of Transportation, are meant to alert drivers to be cautious where the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail intersects with the road — and bicyclists and pedestrians frequently cross.

After a year-long study of this striping treatment, Virginia DOT officials say the markings are effective and should become part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices — the playbook for American street designers.

This photo shows another style of zig zag pavement marking tested in Virginia. Photo: VDOT

This photo shows another style of zig zag pavement marking tested in Virginia. Photo: VDOT

VDOT found the zig zag markings slowed average vehicle speeds, increased motorist awareness of pedestrians and cyclists, and increased the likelihood that drivers would yield. They also noted that the effects of the design change didn’t wear off once motorists became used to the it — they still slowed down a year after installation.

VDOT says the results indicate that zig zag markings are a more cost-effective solution for conflict points between trails and high-speed roads than the current treatments: flashing beacons placed above the road or off to the side.

The zig zag concept was imported from Europe. It is currently used in only two other locations in North America: Hawaii and Ottawa, Ontario. It was one of more than a dozen European traffic management techniques VDOT zeroed in on to test locally.

Read more…

3 Comments

Awesome 11-Year-Old Defends Road Diet, Calls Out LA’s “Bullying” Drivers

In case you need a reason to feel confident about the next generation of livable streets advocates, check out this viral video of 11-year old Matlock Grossman, standing up for a road diet in his Los Angeles neighborhood.

Grossman has been bike commuting since he was seven, and now commutes five miles each way to school. Unfortunately, like many bicycle commuters, he has already experienced his share of harassment from drivers.

Matlock Grossman (center in blue shirt) reads his comments at the Rowena Avenue forum. Photo: Joe Linton

Matlock Grossman (center in blue shirt) reads his comments at the Rowena Avenue forum. Photo: Joe Linton

At a public forum about a road diet and bike lanes implemented on Rowena Avenue, here’s what Grossman had to say to the project’s detractors:

Clearly there are motorists out there who not mature enough to share the road without having the rules painted on the road to show who goes where. The road diet by design is meant to slow down cars because – motorists are the problem.

Even if there are zero bicyclists taking advantage of the bike lanes, it doesn’t matter. The road diet effectively reduces collisions and the statistics prove this.

Stop bullying and victim-blaming the pedestrians and bicyclists as being the problem.

Read more…

2 Comments

You Won’t Soon Forget These Photos of Ghost Bikes. That’s Exactly the Point.

All images from ##http://geneabarnes.com/blog/book/##Don't Forget Me## by Genea Barnes.

All images from Don’t Forget Me by Genea Barnes.

You’ve seen them, locked to signposts on the side of the road. Maybe you’ve helped install one. Maybe you’ve cried at the sight of them.

Ghost bikes memorialize people who have been killed while riding bikes. The bikes don’t usually stay up for more than a few weeks or months before the city removes them or they get stolen. Artist Genea Barnes has found a way to keep the memory alive a little longer.

Her photo book, “Don’t Forget Me,” is a sad and beautiful commemoration of those who have lost their lives to traffic violence. Barnes went on a road trip around the United States to find and photograph ghost bikes before they disappeared.

GeneaBarnesGhostbike2girls

Read more…

37 Comments

After Another Cyclist Dies, David Cameron Considers Truck Ban in UK Cities

Following the death of 26-year-old cyclist Ying Tao, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would look into a truck ban for city centers throughout the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party. Photo via Thinking About Cycling

In a meeting with the British equivalent of the Congressional Bike Caucus, Cameron promised to ask Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to come up with recommendations for improving cycling safety in the country. He suggested that that list could include a ban on trucks in city centers, improved intersection design, and staggered traffic light phasing. Cameron also said he would ask officials to look into greater enforcement of rules mandating that trucks feature certain safety features.

More than half of London cyclist deaths involve trucks. Six of the seven cyclists killed in London so far this year were women hit by construction trucks.

Parliamentarian Ben Bradshaw, the cycling group’s leader, noted that Britain’s major cities “have a lamentable record both for levels of cycling and for cycle safety compared to those of our European neighbours, and it would take very little public investment to make a big improvement in the climate for cycling.”

The government is currently drafting a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. Currently, about 2 percent of trips in Britain are made by bike, but less than 1 percent of transportation funding goes to cycling.

Several European cities prohibit the entrance of heavy vehicles into downtown areas during peak hours, including Paris, Dublin, and Prague.

Earlier this year, London mandated that trucks over 3.5 tons need to have side guards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels and extra mirrors to eliminate blind spots.

While the city maintains a peak-hour ban on the largest trucks (over 40,000 pounds) on specified city streets, Mayor Boris Johnson has rejected calls for more comprehensive regulations, like extending the ban to cover the type of truck involved in the killing of Ying Tao.

11 Comments

Harvard Researcher Calls for Better Police Reporting of Bike Crashes

A chart like this on police reports, designed after car collision recording forms, could help researchers understand better what causes bike collisions. Image: Journal of Injury Prevention

Adding standardized ways to report the circumstances of a bike crash, like this chart modeled after car collision forms, could advance understanding of how to prevent injuries and deaths. Image: Journal of Injury Prevention

Police departments need to improve the way they investigate, document, and convey information about crashes involving cyclists, according to a new study by Harvard public health researcher Anne Luskin in the Journal of Injury Prevention.

While police reports are standardized to record relatively detailed information about car collisions, the same is not true of collisions involving bikes. Better police investigations of bike collisions would help researchers, policy makers, and street designers understand what puts cyclists at risk and improve safety, according to the authors.

Lusk analyzed police crash reporting techniques in all 50 states. She also examined 3,350 police crash reports of bike collisions in New York City.

The information in the reports tended to be scarce and insufficient to determine what caused the crash. Police only consistently reported whether a cyclist was involved and whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet, her team found. Police did not consistently report factors like street conditions, angle of impact, and other information that would be useful in understanding what contributes to collisions and injuries.

Lusk recommends that police reports be modified “to include bicycle-crash-scene reporting fields.” Right now, information that is recorded about bike crashes isn’t specially coded for entry into a spreadsheet — the type of standardization that makes data widely accessible. Police forms should include information like what type of bike infrastructure, if any, exists at the crash location; whether either person involved in the crash was turning; and the points of impact on the car and the bike.

There is less room for error if crash reports are filled in not by hand but with handheld tablets, the authors note. Many state police departments are already moving in that direction.

8 Comments

Meet the Man on a Mission to Make Florida Walkable and Bikeable

Fowler Avenue in Tampa, one of the country's most dangerous cities for pedestrians. Photo: FDOT

Fowler Avenue in Tampa, one of the country’s most dangerous cities for pedestrians. Photo: FDOT

Billy Hattaway just might have the most challenging job in any American transportation agency. As the Florida Department of Transportation’s lead official on bicycle and pedestrian safety, he’s charged with making Florida — consistently rated among the deadliest states for walking and biking — safe for people to get around under their own power.

Since FDOT hired him for the post in 2011, Hattaway has been leading the effort to reform the way this enormous agency designs and builds streets, winning accolades from advocates and the national press in the process. He also heads up one of Florida DOT’s seven districts, directing policy for the southwest corner of the state.

Can Billy Hattaway change the culture at the Florida Department of Transportation? Photo: BikeWalkLee

Billy Hattaway’s job is to change the culture at the Florida Department of Transportation. Photo: BikeWalkLee

We recently spoke to Hattaway about how the reform process is going. Here’s what he had to say. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What were you doing before you were at FDOT?

I was working in the private sector. I worked for 25 years at Florida DOT in three stints. I was trying to advance these [street safety] concepts in the late 80s and early 90s and I didn’t have much success. So I went to the private sector.

I was consulting with VHB [Engineers], which is based in Boston. Most of the work that I did was bike and pedestrian planning. I was doing station area planning for the extension of the Phoenix light rail. It was all form-based code and street design basically for the Phoenix light rail.

It sounds like you have been given a very hard job.

We had to do a lot of structural changes to the organization to drive the change. We have 6,500 employees and you’re trying to change 50 years of planning and design culture.

Read more…

53 Comments

Study: What Puts Cyclists at Greatest Risk? It’s Not What You Wear

When a cyclist is killed or seriously injured, the responses you hear often pin the blame squarely on the victim. “Why wasn’t she wearing a helmet?” Or, “Why was he wearing dark clothing? “

brompton

Going without bright, reflective gear did not have an impact on cyclist injury severity, according to a new study. Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr

But according to a new study [PDF] by a team of Canadian university researchers, those factors don’t seem to have much impact on the overall severity of injury when cyclists are hurt in collisions.

The report looked at injury severity among about 700 adults in Toronto and Vancouver who were hospitalized after a bike collision or fall. Researchers teased out which factors had the biggest impact on the extent of people’s injuries.

Here’s what they found.

What DID Put Cyclists at Greater Risk? 

Being hit by car

Duh, of course! But this point is worth reiterating. The cyclists who were injured in collisions with cars, or by falling to avoid a car collision, were more severely injured than people who just fell, or were involved in a collision with another cyclist or pedestrian.

Riding on sidewalks or shared use paths

Researchers found that people who were injured while riding on sidewalks or shared-use paths tended to sustain worse injuries, even compared to cyclists riding on major roads with no bike infrastructure. These counterintuitive results suggest that riding in places with potential conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians can be more dangerous than people assume. An earlier study by the same research team found people riding on sidewalks and multi-use paths were also more likely overall to be involved in a collision or crash.

Read more…