UBC’s Kay Teschke with tips for safe city cycling in winter and year-round
Kay Teschke, professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, offers safety tips to cyclists on the roads this winter and discusses what cities can do to encourage people to safely ride their bikes.
What is your top safety advice for cyclists who are getting back on their bikes in the New Year?
Route selection, route selection, route selection! This is something we rarely hear about in North America, but it is so important.
Here’s why. A helmet only helps after a crash – it can’t reduce your risk of being in a crash in the first place. But choosing safer routes does.
Research shows that the safest route types are:
- physically separated bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks”
- painted bike lanes, especially on streets with no parked cars
- quiet residential streets
- off-street bike-only paths
Cycling is a great mode of travel, very similar in safety to walking, and it is a healthy activity – excellent for physical and mental well-being. If safer routes aren’t available in your area, ask your local, regional and provincial governments to build them. North American jurisdictions are just starting to understand the importance of bicycling infrastructure and they need encouragement.
What do you say is the biggest deterrent to cycling in a city like Vancouver?
Everywhere in North America, the biggest deterrent is concern about safety. People worry about being hit by motor vehicles, which can have serious consequences. That’s another reason why the safer route types listed above are so important. They provide some or complete separation from traffic and encourage more people to cycle.
What is Vancouver doing right/wrong with its current plans for bike routes?
Vancouver has done many things right: We are deservedly famous for creating a network of residential street bike routes and a bike path along our beautiful waterfront.
The city has started to install physically separated bike lanes along busy city streets and bridges. But here is where we have a long way to go: We need routes that go to our destinations. Right now, most of our shopping streets and business areas don’t have separated bike lanes.