Further analysis has been completed by Gorski Consulting from the video documentation session of August 29, 2023 on Colborne Street north of St James Street in London, Ontario. The purpose of the research is to document the lateral position of cyclists and motor vehicles in order to provide some objective evidence about the safety of painted cycling lanes.
The research has been ongoing since early April, 2023 and a number of articles have been posted to this Gorski Consulting website. In the spring and summer three video sessions were carried out when a cycling lane had not yet be installed. Then, it August the cycling lane was painted. An additional session was conducted on August 29, 2023 so that this data could be compared to the previous dates when the cycling lane did not exist.
The lateral position of traffic units at the site was enabled by painting orange dots at 5-metre intervals along a distance of 50 metres. The dots were painted laterally across the northbound lane of Colborne at 20-centimetre intervals over a width of 3 metres. The zero point for this dots was the edge of the east concrete gutter of Colborne.
We now have completed documenting the traffic units by separating them into four categories: 1. Cyclists, 2. LTC Transit Buses, 3. Light Duty vehicles and 4. Heavy duty vehicles. The table of all these results is shown below.
This table now contains the data from observations before and after the painted cycling lane was completed.
Along the bottom row we can see the overall averages for lateral paths of all the traffic units. Before the cycling lane was installed the overall average position of all traffic units was 0.94 metres west of the concrete gutter. After the installation of the painted cycling lane the overall average of all traffic units was 1.57 metres west of the concrete gutter. So, overall, traffic was moved further away from the right side of the lane. Yet there are important differences when looking at the categories of traffic.
Looking at cyclists, their paths were moved slightly closer to the right of the lane and this is in contrast to the motor vehicles in the other three categories. Before the cycling lane was created cyclists rode at an average of 0.71 metres west of the concrete gutter. After the cycling lane installation that average was reduced to 0.58 metres. While the difference of 13 centimetres appears slight, it can be noted that the width of the cycling lane includes a junction between the concrete gutter and asphalt surface. This junction produces a potential danger that cyclists could lose control of their cycle when riding along that junction.
With respect to the three remaining vehicle categories their paths were all taken further away from the cycling lane and this is an important improvement. There have been criticisms of painted cycling lanes, particularly by cyclists who consider them of little effect, and some of that criticism is valid. However, it needs to be acknowledged that the findings from the present research indicates that there is some benefit to painted cycling lanes in that they help to separate cyclists from motor vehicles.
However not all painted cycling lanes are the same. Under certain conditions there can be safety problems which do not exist at the Colborne Street site. Situations where there is a curve in a roadway can cause traffic units to wander out of their normal position. Situations of upgrades and downgrades can also cause such wandering. And certain road characteristics such as surface depressions or manhole covers can cause such wandering. Each site and each roadway needs to be evaluated according to its unique conditions and mediation should be applied when necessary.
More broadly it needs to be acknowledged that cycling lane characteristics are not the only causes of danger and conflict to cyclists. In the analysis of motor vehicle causes it has been known for many decades that the acronym “HVE” applies. The Human, the Vehicle and the Environment are all broad categories of influences on collision causation. So too HVE applies to cyclist collision analysis. The Human that operates a cyclist obviously has an effect on collisions much like in motor vehicle collisions. And the cycling Vehicle cannot be ignored. Unusual cycle characteristics such as excessive widths can cause problems even in protected cycling lanes.
The concept of “clear zones” on roadways has been applied for decades so that motor vehicles are less likely to strike an immovable object such as tree or pole. Deformable and displacing barriers reduce the consequences of such interactions. But barriers are of minimal benefit in incidents involving cyclists. Cyclists have minimal protection when contacting anything, even of relatively minor mass, such as a post or a curb. In many instances the initial contact may be less severe than when a cyclist falls and hits their head on road surface or curb. Fatal head injuries, particularly when a cyclist is not wearing a helmet, are not uncommon in such instances.
The collection of objective evidence is a key objective in conducting cyclist safety research. But just as important is the dissemination of that research to the users of the road, the vast majority of whom may be unsophisticated and inexperienced in understanding what is dangerous to them.