The following is a guest blog post by Anne Lusk, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health, AnneLusk@hsph.harvard.edu
Editor note: The incorporation of scientific evidence into policy is a critical element in public health research benefiting populations. This guest blog post highlights one example of research, published in Injury Prevention, which has influenced policy. This example underscores the need for continued efforts to make policy more responsive to scientific evidence.
There has been a sea change in the bike land and we can credit research. On July 31, 2013, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requested proposals on “Cycle Track Planning and Design Information.” Until this call, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Engineers (AASHTO) had published bike guidelines that for years intentionally did not include cycle tracks (barrier-protected bicycle-exclusive paths beside sidewalks).
The FHWA proposal defended their new call, “There is a growing body of research on cycle tracks in the U.S. and Canada indicating that, when they are designed well, they do not increase bike crash rates.” The FHWA proposal added, “A growing body of research is also suggesting that separated bikeways encourage more people to bicycle.”
In 2010, research that colleagues and I had conducted on cycle tracks was accepted by Injury Prevention, “Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street (2011).” Our research showed that there was a 28% lower injury rate on cycle tracks compared to bicycling on comparable roads without bicycle facilities and also that 2.5 times as many bicyclists bicycled on the cycle tracks compared to comparable roads. We also determined the crash rate per million bike-km on the 6 cycle tracks in Montreal (10.5) and compared this crash rate to published crash rates for bicycling in the road (3.75-67). Important confirmatory findings were reported by Teschke and colleagues1, 2.
While research in other domains has influenced policy in those fields, the connection to policy change has not always been as evident. In this case, rigorous research by our group and other authors who also study cycle tracks helped change a policy that can change hearts, waist lines, blood pressure, cancer levels, longevity, and states-of-mind.
1. Teschke K, Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, Babul S, Chipman M, et al. Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study. Am J Public Health 2012;102(12):2336-2343.
2. Thomas B, DeRobertis M. The safety of urban cycle tracks: a review of the literature. Accid Anal Prev 2013;52:219-27.