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When Will AASHTO Revise Its Policy Against Separated Bike Lanes?

10:24 AM EST on February 11, 2011

Researchers at Harvard have delved into the relative safety of separated bike lanes versus riding on the road. In case you had any doubts, cycle tracks are safer.

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Dr. Anne Lusk at Harvard's School for Public Health studied injury rates on cycle tracks in Montreal, comparing them to injury rates on comparable streets with no bike lane. Her study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, found not only that cycle tracks attracted 2.5 times as many cyclists, but also that injuries were generally more rare.

Not a terribly surprising result. But it's an important one because the most influential guidelines for American traffic engineers discourage the use of cycle tracks.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland has more:

It's my hunch that this study was done just as much to make a policy point about America's current traffic engineering guidelines as it was to gather statistical data. Here's a key excerpt from the study:

"Contrary to AASHTO's [American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials] safety cautions about road-parallel paths and its exclusion of cycle tracks, our results suggest that two-way cycle tracks on one side of the road have either lower or similar injury rates compared with bicycling in the street without bicycle provisions. This lowered risk is also in spite of the less-than-ideal design of the Montreal cycle tracks, such as lacking parking setbacks at intersections, a recommended practice."

Will this study end the debate here in the states about whether or not separated facilities are the best way forward? Maybe not. But it's likely to add fuel to the fire of "Cities for Cycling" a collaboration of planners and engineers from major U.S. cities working to establish their own guidelines so they are able to construct a wider range of facilities — including ones that physically separate bicycles from motor vehicle traffic.

It will be interesting to see what AASHTO's response to this new data will be.

Elsewhere on the Network today: City Block debates the meaning of Chrysler's talked-about "Imported from Detroit" Superbowl ad. Transit in Utah shows off the state's jealousy-inducing new light rail cars. And the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation reports that the state Senate has passed bicycle and pedestrian holiday legislation, designating Bike Month, Bike Week, Bike to Work Day, Walk to School Month, and Walk to School Day.

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