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More people would jump on their bikes if cycling paths were separated from traffic, UBC Prof. Kay Teschke says - photo by Martin Dee
More people would jump on their bikes if cycling paths were separated from traffic, UBC Prof. Kay Teschke says - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 55 | No. 6 | June 4, 2009

Risking the ride to work

By Basil Waugh

In nine months, more than 1,100 adults have gone to emergency wards in Vancouver and Toronto for cycling-related injuries, according to preliminary findings of a UBC study released for Bike Month.

The study is led by Prof. Kay Teschke of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, one of 10 UBC researchers participating in UBC’s Cycling in Cities research program, which investigates how to make cities bike-friendly.

Working with Transport Canada, the City of Toronto, Metro Vancouver, Translink and other partners, Teschke says the initiative’s goal is to give municipalities the information they need to make the best decisions for bike infrastructure types and locations.

“By assessing routes for injury risks and exploring the factors that make people want to cycle, we hope to show cities how to build pathways that are safer and more convenient,” says Teschke, noting that their research shows most cyclists want to be away from traffic. “But that’s challenging, because we are talking about cities that are already built.”

Teschke points to a recent Vancouver program to increase traffic calming on residential street bike routes as an example of a project that has resulted from their work.

Teschke and colleagues from the University of Toronto are tracking all cycling-related injuries that come through emergency wards in two of Canada’s largest cities. Preliminary results show that more than 670 injured adult cyclists went to the emergency wards of St. Paul’s Hospital or Vancouver General Hospital between June 2008 and March 2009. Nearly 450 went to the emergency departments of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto General Hospital, or Toronto Western Hospital in Toronto over the same period.

After interviewing the injured cyclists, Teschke and her team retrace their routes and study where the injury occurred. “This helps us to better understand what led to the injury, identify problem areas and make recommendations for improving safety,” she says.

The project also surveyed more than 1,400 Metro Vancouver adults about which factors encourage – or discourage – cycling. It found that the majority – nearly 60 per cent – had bikes, but did not use them on a weekly or monthly basis.

Asked about 16 different route types and 73 other factors that could influence cycling decisions, participants ranked riding on busy streets very low, expressing a strong preference for paved off-street paths for cyclists only, traffic-calmed residential streets designated for cycling, and cycling paths separated from major streets by a physical barrier.

If North America hopes to reach cycling rates such as those in Europe and Asia, planners need a paradigm shift, says Teschke.

“If we want to really grow our numbers, we need to focus on the underserved majority who don’t feel comfortable cycling with traffic,” she says, “older people, women, people with children.”

“People who cycle regularly now are a minority,” says Teschke, noting that the typical frequent cyclist is male, aged 25-45. “They may not like their route options, but their threshold for risk is such that they will cycle on pretty much anything.”

Funders for this initiative include Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Transport Canada, Metro Vancouver and its municipalities, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, UBC’s Centre for Health and Environment Research and the Bridge Program.

Learn about UBC’s Cycling in Cities research program at:


For more information about cycling at UBC, visit the TREK Program Centre at: www.trek.ubc.ca.

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Website helps cyclists find easiest, greenest route

UBC researchers recently launched a new online Cycling Metro Vancouver route-planning tool to help cyclists find the easiest and least polluted route through the region.

Informed by UBC Cycling in Cities research, the website uses Google maps to help riders find their way from place to place while minimizing air pollution, hills and traffic congestion.

Development of the tool was led by Prof. Michael Brauer, UBC School of Environment Health, in co-operation with TransLink.

Plan your trip at: www.cyclevancouver.ubc.ca


Last reviewed 02-Jun-2009

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