Comment 41791

By herb (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 19:03:54

This is indeed tragic, particularly when people feel they are doing something safe.

Ryan, I can understand the urge to show that sidewalk cycling is dangerous so as to support the need for bike lanes. I commend the purpose of the post: I believe bike lanes are the ultimately important for increasing cycling safety. But I don't feel it does a service to make claims that aren't supported by the collision study.

You claim: "The sidewalk is the most dangerous place for a cyclist to ride." You then go on to claim that the Toronto collision study shows that "cyclists on the sidewalk were significantly over-represented in the results". But that is not true; the study does not say sidewalk cyclists are *over-represented*. In order to make this claim the study would need access to data on the breakdown of urban/suburban road versus sidewalk cyclists and then compare it to the collision data. What the study does say is it does *not* know about prevalence in relation to collisions:

"Forty-six percent of collisions in the outer areas of the city involved sidewalk cycling
(522 cases), compared to only thirteen percent of the central area collisions (188 cases). This suggests that, in outer areas, either sidewalk cycling is much more prevalent or it is much more likely to lead to a collision than it is in the central area (Figures 3.11 and 3.12)."

The study authors could not conclude either way since they didn't have access to the prevalence of sidewalk cycling. Now, there is not any publicly available data, but when I had worked in the City of Toronto's cycling department a few years ago we had collected data at various suburban and urban intersections to get year-by-year data on cyclists and their habits. From my recollection roughly 1/3 or more of all suburban cyclists were riding on the sidewalk during our counts.

I'm not sure why the City has never published this data, but it may be partly because of a lack of funding and priority in getting this out. Either way, I believe that my 1/3 number correlates with a lot of people's experience: there are a lot of sidewalk cyclists in the suburbs.

In sum, you cannot claim that sidewalk cyclists are over-represented since the evidence is not there. The best we can say is that sidewalk cycling is not any *safer* than riding on the road; or that you are just as likely to get hit in a crosswalk coming off the sidewalk as you are riding on the road. I'm glad that sidewalks (or crosswalks, to be technical) are not that dangerous since we still tell our children to bike on them.

There are other good reasons for adults to avoid riding on the sidewalk that we can focus on. Namely, sidewalk cycling increases the risk of hitting pedestrians; sidewalk cycling is slow compared to the road; and it's illegal in many municipalities (though not all).

I hope you take another look at the study and read it a bit more closely before making such strong claims. Or look around for other studies that can better correlate the two - I believe they exist.


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