Cycling is well known to improve individual health and fitness; it also benefits the wider population in terms of economy, road congestion and environmental impact. Governments and the EU promote cycling via many initiatives to achieve sustainable, clean and energy efficient transport systems. However, despite benefits outweighing the risks by 20:1, many consider the risk too great and fear of perceived danger on the road needs to be tackled. Cycle lanes have been used to improve cyclists' safety and encourage more cyclists onto the road. This research in Transport aims to study the impact of cycle lanes on cyclist safety in terms of passing space given by overtaking vehicles.
In this study, the authors used a bicycle equipped with cameras to record vehicle overtakes in varying road situations to determine whether cycle lanes, colour block cycle lanes or no cycle lanes affect passing distances and cyclist stability/safety. Their 3 comparisons, measuring vehicle passing widths found greater overall distances given with a cycle lane than without. Colour block vs. uncoloured cycle lane showed little or no difference as did no cycle lane vs. colour block cycle lane. Colour block lanes had a slight negative effect suggesting that drivers are more careful when cycle lanes have less definition.
Fascinatingly the authors conclude that other factors have a far greater impact on cyclist safety than presence or absence of cycle lane. Road width, parking, opposing vehicle flow and speed were critical influences on decreased passing widths. The authors also note that driver behaviour is a hugely important and unquantified factor, they urge more qualitative research in this area and note "in order to reduce perceived risk and encourage more cycling…reducing or calming existing motorised traffic must be explored first…lane width is the most significant variable to achieve a sufficient vehicle passing distance…the provision of narrow (<2 m) cycle lanes …may be insufficient…Reconsideration of the entire road design and further exploration of driver behavioural factors is required."
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