Cycling is a popular activity in Nevada, with people cycling to work, to school, for exercise, or just for pleasure. However, it is an undeniable fact that, along with pedestrians, cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. In 2011, figures show that 677 cyclists were killed on America’s roads in accidents between bikes and motor vehicles, and a further 38,000 were injured. These alarming figures show how important it is that measures are taken to make cycling a safer activity for all concerned.
Roads no longer fit for purpose
One option for improving road safety that is receiving increasing support is the concept of Complete Streets. According to the Complete Streets Coalition, the initiative involves the development of road networks that are “safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.”
An article written for the Federal Highways Administration acknowledges that the current road network doesn’t meet this standard. It highlights the fact that roads were originally designed to ensure that motorized traffic could move through the road network as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, although this is good news for motorists, it doesn’t take into account the needs of other road users such as cyclists and pedestrians – a fact that is clearly demonstrated in the number of road casualty statistics.
Considering the needs of cyclists in road design
Local authorities and health bodies are keen to promote cycling for its health and environmental credentials; however there has not yet been a corresponding increase in investment and initiatives to facilitate this cycling and to keep cyclists safe.
Towns and cities that implement a Complete Streets policy would ensure that the road networks developed by transportation planners would always be built with all possible road users in mind and not just cars. This would mean that the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians and public transportation vehicles were considered and accounted for.
Unfortunately, even the safest of roads, designed with every road safety and accident prevention measure available, will still see the occasional accident because planners can’t account for random events, or the possibility of human error. As a result, it is important that cyclists always ensure they have the appropriate level of insurance cover for their bikes. UK bicycle insurance comparison website money.co.uk advises consumers to think carefully about what they need their insurance policy to cover. Bikes can be expensive and represent a significant investment on the part of their owners, so most cyclists will want protection against the risk of theft and accidental damage. However, considering the inherent risks involved in cycling on busy roads, it may also be worth including coverage for some level of personal accident insurance, as well as third-party liability to ensure they are covered for any damage they may inadvertently cause to another road user.
Common road hazards
Evidence shows that vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians are put at risk when they use roads that don’t take into account the needs of these groups. Common hazards include a lack of safe places to cross a busy road, wait for a bus or cycle.
According to the Complete Streets Coalition, there were more than 5,000 pedestrians and cyclists killed on roads in the US in 2008, and a further 120,000 injured. Figures have shown that road accidents involving pedestrians are twice as common in areas without sidewalks. Unsurprisingly, these accidents are least common on roads that have sidewalks on both sides.
Effective road safety measures
The Complete Streets philosophy doesn’t mandate the same design of road layout for all areas, but instead recognizes that the needs of road users will differ depending on where the road is. For example, a road in a rural area will have different levels of use than a road in a heavily built-up urban area. However, all roads designed to meet the Complete Streets standards will have one thing in common – finding the right balance of safety and convenience to meet the needs of all road users.
The types of measures that might be included in a road layout designed with Complete Streets in mind could include:
- Widening roads to provide dedicated space for different users, such as cyclists, public transport and car drivers.
- Providing regular and safe crossing points for pedestrians.
- Better placement of bus stops.
According to the Complete Streets Coalition, a number of studies into bicyclist safety found that the inclusion of well-designed infrastructure specific to the needs of cyclists led to a reduction in the risk of cyclists crashing or sustaining an injury. For example, the inclusion of dedicated bicycle lanes was found to reduce accident rates by around 50%.
Adopting a Complete Streets philosophy needn’t be expensive or complicated, but can have a major impact on road safety, as demonstrated by the figures relating to the introduction of cycle lanes. Any investment into achieving Complete Streets that town and road planners are prepared to make will see major returns in the form of a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries on the roads. - Jennifer Knight