Safety Risks and Benefits of Active Transportation
More and more people are turning to bicycling as a mode of transportation and as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to a recent study by the London School of Economics, featured in Bike Biz, the bicycle industry is booming. However, along with this transition are growing concerns over the safety of cyclists.
The Ontario Medical Association recently released a report titled Enhancing cycling safety in Ontario that lists several recommendations to increase cycling safety. With a provincial election on the horizon, Ontario's doctors are calling on both provincial and municipal governments to step up their investment in cycling and to do more to make cycling safer. Recommendations include redoubling efforts to implement bike lanes, revising the Ontario Drivers' Manual, and delivering bicycle safety education for both cyclists and drivers.
While active transportation users are still at an increased risk compared to automobile or pubic transit, the good news is that cycling-related injuries have decreased in the past decade. Maclean's Magazine also recently noted studies which showed that cyclists gained greater health benefits putting them at lower risk for obesity.
Moreover North Americans are learning some valuable things from our European counterparts. First, European-style separated bike lanes that have been tested in some North American cities prove effective in reducing the number of cycling-related accidents as well as pedestrian and automobile accidents. Second, "safety in numbers" really works - the more cyclists and pedestrians there are on the road, the fewer the accidents. Third, a recent study by the British Medical Journal found that bike sharing programs actually help save lives of regular bicycle sharing riders every year by providing benefits from reduced CO2 emissions and being physically fit. Featured in Inhabitat, the study reported that the safety risks of cycling under the Bicing bicycle sharing program in Spain were outweighed by the benefits.