Thursday, October 24, 2013



A landmark study published in the July American Journal of Public Health finds the installation of cycle track—protected bike lanes—promises for town centers and urban areas infrastructure enabling all regardless of age, sex, or ability the opportunity to travel by bicycle in comfort and safety. 

A former Vermont walking and bicycling leader, Dr. Anne Lusk, now at the Harvard School of Public Health, was a lead researcher on the study team.  The study examines: (1) state and federal highway guidance for bicycling in regard to cycle track; (2) 19 U.S. cycle tracks (including one in South Burlington, VT) with determination their safety far surpasses on-street bicycling; and (3) European experience where a large proportion of the population--all ages, all skills and both male and female—ride bicycles regularly.  U.S. urban trips by bicycle are about one percent and walking six percent while Germany and the Netherlands average about 20 percent each—more than 40% of all urban trips there are on foot and bicycle in those two nations. The paper, “Bicycle guidelines and crash rates on cycle track in the United States,” can be found at:     

Dr. Lusk--named by President George H.W. Bush as his 119th Point of Light, a designation for notable volunteer community leaders in a variety of fields--left Vermont a few years ago as a true legend in the field of walking and bicycling.  Lusk almost single-handedly built the Stowe Bikepath, lead a volunteer group of State and private members to create, promote and develop walking and bicycling initiatives culminating in an $11 million State funded bikepath program even before federal program began, and facilitated the formation of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition which now in its third decade continues fostering programs, policies and investments in what is now a burgeoning field of walking and bicycling growth in virtually every town in Vermont.  Vermont’s early leadership in roundabout development in the Northeast also resulted directly from the initiatives Lusk led.  Lusk also was involved in a study finding the safety superiority of cycle track in Montreal (built in 2007) over on-street cycling.

Cycle track is rapidly developing in the U.S--100 miles are under development in Chicago, announcement occurred this month that Boston will build 20 miles of cycle track by 2018, and cycle tracks plans and initiatives can be found bubbling up throughout the U.S. and Canada.   The study reports only 0.5% those aged 16 over population home-to-work trips by bike in the United States—and only 24% of those trips by women.  While male bicycle trips have increased recently, female bicycling has not changed and trips by children has decreased.

The study shows U.S. cycle track  experience far lower injury rates per mile of travel than on highways or streets with unprotected bike lanes or no lanes.  Cycle track in the United States totaled 40 miles at the time of the research while Dutch cycle track miles totaled 18,000 miles in a nation with the population about that of New England.  

There exists strong interest in safe routes to schools (until recently a federal program funded projects in this area) and European experience indicates that levels of walking and bicycling to school is closely associated with the presence of cycle track networks.   The study notes a survey of research indicating “cyclists are safer on roundabouts with cycle track.”

Finally, the study takes aim at U.S. bicycle guidance—particularly the American Association of Highway Officials (AASHTO) bicycle and highway guides from 1974 to 1999 prepared by committees dominated by males  (over 90 percent males for the two publications for which gender data could be found), publications which do not address in any way the value, benefits, etc. of cycle track—with much of the bicycle guidance given without foundation in research.

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