High walk and bike scores associated with greater crash risk

August 27, 2020

Neighbourhoods with high bikeability and walkability scores actually present higher crash risks to cyclists and pedestrians in Vancouver, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

In a study outlined in Transportation Research Record, researchers used five years of crash data from provincial auto insurer ICBC to identify high crash-risk zones in the city of Vancouver. They compared these zones to their walk scores and bike scores--popular metrics used by researchers, transportation planners and real estate agents to indicate how conducive an area is to walking or biking--and discovered that although these zones were deemed to be highly walkable or bikeable, they were associated with higher risks of pedestrian and cyclist crashes, respectively.

"Among the public, there is an implicit assumption that 'walkable' and 'bikeable' means safe for walking and biking, but these indices do not actually include objective measures of safety," said principal investigator Tarek Sayed, a UBC professor in the department of civil engineering. "When we objectively analyzed the data, we found that the zones with better bikeability and walkability scores had higher collision risks. We controlled for traffic volume and pedestrian and cyclist numbers, so this reflects actual collision risks to individuals."

Collision hot spots

Areas of the city found to pose the highest collision risk to cyclists included zones in the downtown core and in Strathcona and Mount Pleasant, which are rated highly on the Bike Score index. Hot spots for pedestrian-involved collisions were found in zones within the downtown core, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Strathcona and Grandview-Woodland, which have high walk scores. A big part of what makes neighbourhoods walkable and bikeable is a high density of attractive destinations, which increases walking and cycling trips, but also creates conflicts among road users. Other areas of the city may be safer for walking and cycling, but with few destinations to walk or cycle to.

Sayed acknowledges walk score and bike score indices do not claim to reflect safety.

"If these indices are clearly defined as a reflection of the ease of reaching a destination, they may be good. But we want to make clear to the public that they do not indicate safer areas for walking and biking," he said. "We need to have two indices--one for bike attractiveness and another one for safety."

New bike safety index

Sayed and colleagues are proposing a new composite Bike Safety Index that reflects both biking appeal and safety. Areas of Vancouver that rate highest in this index include zones within Point Grey, Stanley Park, False Creek, the River District, Kerrisdale, and along the Fraser River in Marpole.

The index, described in a paper published earlier this year, takes into account a number of elements, including the complexity of routes, density of traffic signals, kilometres travelled by vehicles, bike network coverage and average link length.

"The very low correlation between bike safety and bike attractiveness in our research indicates the need for this composite index," said Sayed. "If you compare the maps using the Bike Safety Index ratings compared to bike attractiveness ratings, they look very different."

Sayed said he hopes to see this index widely adopted by cities around the globe. "By providing the public with an objective measure of safety, my hope is that cyclists and pedestrians will be better equipped to navigate their cities safely, and with an accurate understanding of where they are at greater risk of injuries from car collisions," said Sayed.
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Walking Articles from Brightsurf:

Why walking to work may be better for you than a casual stroll
Walking with a purpose -- especially walking to get to work -- makes people walk faster and consider themselves to be healthier, a new study has found.

Spinal cord gives bio-bots walking rhythm
Miniature biological robots are making greater strides than ever, thanks to the spinal cord directing their steps.

These feet were made for walking
Many of us take our feet for granted, but they have a challenging job in the biomechanics department.

Walking sharks discovered in the tropics
Four new species of tropical sharks that use their fins to walk are causing a stir in waters off northern Australia and New Guinea.

Micro implants could restore standing and walking
Researchers at the University of Alberta are focused on restoring lower-body function after severe spinal injuries using a tiny spinal implant.

Walking changes vision
When people walk around, they process visual information differently than at rest: the peripheral visual field shows enhanced processing.

Virtual walking system for re-experiencing the journey of another person
Virtual-reality researchers have developed a virtual-walking system that records a person's walking and re-plays it with vision and foot vibrations.

A large study indicates how cities can promote walking for travel
Coinciding with the European Mobility Week, a study performed in seven European cities focuses on walking for travel, a strategy to increase physical activity in cities.

Robotic cane shown to improve stability in walking
By adding electronics and computation technology to a simple cane that has been around since ancient times, Columbia Engineering researchers have transformed it into a 21st century robotic device that can provide light-touch assistance in walking to the aged and others with impaired mobility.

Water walking -- The new mode of rock skipping
Utah State University's Splash Lab not only reveals the physics of how elastic spheres interact with water, but it also lays the foundation for the future design of water-walking drones.

Read More: Walking News and Walking Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.