New Cycling Safety Report Released for the City of Vancouver
No one should die needlessly in a traffic-related accident on Vancouver’s streets. So says the City of Vancouver’s Transportation Plan (Transportation 2040), which has the goal of working towards zero traffic-related fatalities. The plan puts a special focus on vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
A few years ago, as part of this initiative Urban Systems completed the first ever Pedestrian Safety Study for the City of Vancouver. Since that study was released, the majority of priority locations highlighted have been improved with safety measures like slower walk speeds, countdown timers, LED lighting and left turn changes.
Recently, we completed work on the second phase of this work—a companion Cycling Safety Study, which took a little over a year to complete and which the City of Vancouver just released to the public.
Our own Brian Patterson and Sarah Freigang were hard at work on this study, which involved a comprehensive assessment of where, when, and why cycling collisions and injuries occur, and who was involved. Like the Pedestrian Safety Study, it included an Action Plan to address the identified safety issues.
Spotlight on Cycling in Vancouver
The City of Vancouver is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in North America and according to the 2011 Canadian National Household Survey, cycling accounts for approximately 4.4% of all trips to work in the City of Vancouver.
When asked what stood out most about the cycling safety report to her, Sarah mentioned the fact that many of the cycling collisions that happen in Vancouver are centered around five key “problem” locations:
- Burrard Street at Pacific Street;
- Main Street at East 2nd Avenue;
- Clark Drive at East 10th Avenue;
- Pine Street at West 10th Avenue; and
- Burrard Street at Davie Street.
Brian highlights that one thing that surprised him about the findings was the balance of fault for cycling accidents.
“We found that in 93% of collisions where fault could be determined, cyclists actually had the right of way. There is sometimes a public perception that cyclists don’t follow the signs of the road and cause many or most accidents themselves, but this data gives us a better understanding of what’s actually happening. It’s a fascinating takeaway.”
Another interesting finding was what types of accidents were most common. Dooring (when a driver opens their car door and a cyclist is hit) was the most common type of accident, and as Brian points out “This is a particularly dangerous situation, because the cyclist is often thrown into traffic.” Based on these findings the City is already talking about the possibility of creating a public awareness campaign to help both drivers and cyclists be more cautious around dooring.
One of the key components of this study was a special Action Plan included to address problem areas that were identified—to ultimately make Vancouver streets safer for everyone. Twelve key issues were identified in the study and each came with a recommended fix.
A wide range of engineering treatments can be used to improve cycling safety, such as protected bicycle lanes, buffered bicycle lanes, coloured conflict zone markings, and protected bicycle signal phases. In addition to engineering treatments, education and encouragement initiatives can help to raise awareness among bicycle users, pedestrians, and motorists about how to safely share the road and improve the behaviour of those driving and cycling.
“Now we have a roadmap for what we can do to improve safety. This is an important topic to make sure it’s clear, concise and portrayed well—we’re proud of the work we’ve done here and we think it will help keep people safer,” says Sarah.
High-level findings from the Cycling Safety Study were recently presented to the Vancouver City Council. The City is now reviewing recommendations so they can be incorporated into capital planning and so that high priority locations can be slated for improvement.
“It’s gratifying to see them taking this data so seriously,” says Brian. “The City has been really on the ball in terms of making improvements that will help keep our roads safe for everyone. It’s a rewarding project to be involved in.”