One in three bicycle crashes in downtown Toronto involve streetcars, a problem that could be resolved if there were separated bike routes, according to a new study out of UBC and Ryerson University.
“This would be a great time to create separated bike and rail lanes,” said Kay Teschke, a professor in UBC’s school of population and public health in a release. “Physically separated lanes are a wonderful way for two environmentally friendly modes of transportation to run safely together.”
The researchers examined 276 bike crashes that sent people to hospital in Toronto’s downtown core between May 2008 and November 2009.
Toronto’s streetcars runs through the city’s downtown and the tracks stretch along many busy streets and intersections. The researchers found that 139 of the crashes occurred in areas with streetcar tracks and 87 directly involved the tracks.
In these crashes, cyclists often had to maneuver quickly to avoid collisions with vehicles, pedestrians or other cyclists and their wheels got caught in the gap alongside the rails or slipped on the rail itself.
“Riding as a cyclist in Toronto you always feel that streetcar tracks are a hazard, and we all have our near misses, but our study is one of the first to put a number to this risk,” said Anne Harris, assistant professor in the school of occupational and public health at Ryerson University in a release. “The fact that about a third of the Toronto bike injuries in our study involved streetcar tracks really underlined the danger to me.”
The researchers found streets with tracks and parked cars particularly dangerous, as were left turns at intersections with tracks. They also found the tires of the most commonly sold bikes are narrower than the track rails.
The authors of the study said Toronto and other cities planning for light rail to create separated bike lanes.
The study was published in the BMC Public Health .