Bicycling has exploded in popularity across the United States over the past 10 – 15 years. More people are purchasing and riding bicycles these days than ever before, and this includes a massive amount of riders who spend time riding through large cities. While bicycling is obviously good exercise, it is also somewhat risky when bicyclists and motorists share space.
As a result of this growing problem, several cities around the country including Las Vegas have been adding bicycle lanes to busy streets. The hope was that it would both reduce the number of crashes between bicycles and vehicles and reduce the severity of the injuries suffered. Bicycle lanes have now been in place long enough for data to become available for study. That’s exactly what researchers at the University of Buffalo decided to do recently.
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The point of the study was to define whether or not the presence of bicycle lanes reduced the severity of the injuries suffered by bicyclists when they collided with vehicles, and if so whether these bicycle lanes were the biggest determining factor. The researchers reviewed bicycle accident statistics from different cities that occurred in bicycle lanes and compared them with several other types of crashes. What they found was that while bicycle lanes did have a slight impact on the severity of the injuries suffered by bicyclists in these crashes, they were not the biggest factors.
The two biggest factors in reducing the severity of injuries suffered in crashes were the speed at which the vehicles were traveling before they collided with bicycles and the amount of light that was present when these accidents occurred. Both of those factors seem to make sense.
Clearly, when a vehicle is traveling at a higher rate of speed it’s going to generate more force when it collides with a bicyclist. In addition, if it’s lighter outside, it’s more likely that a motorist is going to see a bicyclist before a collision occurs and therefore slow down at least enough that the amount of force involved is reduced. Bicycle lanes were found to have a small effect on the severity of these crashes because motorists tended to realize that they were in the wrong place often enough to pull out of those lanes and lessen the intensity of the impact. None of this should be taken to mean that bicycle lanes are going to start to disappear soon.
Most local governments approve of bicycle riding for transportation, as it cuts public costs, it helps the environment and it reduces the traffic that others have to endure. This would be particularly helpful in a city such as Las Vegas. However, people are unfortunately going to continue to be injured or worse when they are hit by vehicles based on simple physics.
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