With more cyclists taking to the road, more cities are creating
dedicated bike lanes. But a UB study has found that dedicated bike
lanes are not necessarily the most important factors in reducing
the severity of injuries in crashes between bikes and motor
The findings were presented May 16 at the annual meeting of the
Society for Academic Emergency Medicine by co-author Dietrich
Jehle, professor of emergency medicine in the School of Medicine
and Biomedical Sciences and at Erie County Medical Center. Kelsey
Helak, a UB medical student, was first author.
The UB study examined whether cyclists injured in accidents with
motor vehicles while traveling in bike lanes had less severe
injuries than cyclists traveling in the same lanes as motor
vehicles. Previous research has shown that bike lanes do reduce the
number of bike-motor vehicle accidents that occur, Jehle says.
The UB study was based on National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration cycling injury severity data from 2010 and data
about factors affecting bike-motor vehicle crashes from 2002-10.
“Our findings show that bike lanes or paved shoulders by
themselves do not significantly reduce the severity of injuries
sustained by cyclists,” says Jehle. “The data show that
other factors may be more important in reducing the severity of
cyclists’ injuries, including the speed of motor vehicles
traveling near them and how much light there is.”
The data show that other factors, including alcohol use by
either the cyclist or the motor-vehicle driver, riding in
darkness—even with streetlights—and the posted speed
limit of a road, are more significant safety factors for cyclists
to consider and adjust for than riding in bike lanes.
Jehle and colleagues found that the severity of injuries to
cyclists were almost the same, whether the cyclist was traveling in
a bike lane or with traffic. The study did control for posted speed
limit, alcohol use by the motor-vehicle driver, time of day,
weather and cyclist’s use of a helmet.
The UB study notes that the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration has reported that while only 1 percent of trips in
the U.S. are made by bicycle, 2 percent of all traffic fatalities
are those of bicyclists.
Besides Helak and Jehle, co-authors are Joseph Consiglio, data
manager/statistician for the Department of Emergency Medicine and a
graduate student in the Department of Biostatistics, School of
Public Health and Health Professions, and Juliana Wilson, a
postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Emergency Medicine.