Principal Investigator: Teschke, Kay (University of British Columbia)
Co-Investigators: Babul, Shelina (BC Injury Research & Prevention Unit); Becker, Jack (Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition); Brubacher, Jeff (Vancouver General Hospital); Chipman, Mary (University of Toronto); Cripton, Peter (University of British Columbia); Cusimano, Michael (University of Toronto); Fenton, Bonnie (City of Vancouver); Friedman, Steven (University of Toronto); Harris, Anne (University of British Columbia); Hay, David (Richard Buell Sutton Barristers and Solicitors); Hunte, Garth (St. Paul’s Hospital); Reynolds, Conor (University of British Columbia); Stary, Peter (City of Vancouver); Tomlinson, David (Transportation Services); Wentworth, Barbara (City of Toronto).
This project is funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Project web site: Cycling in Cities
1. The research question
In Canada, people drive for most urban trips rather than walk or bike. Most healthy adults can walk 2 km in a short time or bike 5 km easily. In the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, walking is twice as many trips as in Canadian cities and biking 5-15 times as many trips. Additionally, people of all ages bike whereas in Canada, cyclists are mainly young men.
People don't bike because they are concerned about safety. There is good reason for this concern. Cycling in Canada is more dangerous than driving, and more dangerous than cycling in European cities. On the other hand, cycling has many benefits - it can improve physical fitness and reduce obesity and air pollution. Making it safer will increase the rate of cycling and improve the health of Canadians.
2. The objective
Our goal is to study the link between bicyclists' injuries and the cycling environment (primarily the types of route, including integration or separation of the cyclist from motorized or pedestrian traffic; types of intersection; and presence of car parking and junctions).
3. The approach
The study will take place in Toronto and Vancouver. The participants will be adults who were injured while bicycling and who attend hospital emergency departments for treatment. Five hospitals will recruit participants, 600 in total. The participants will be interviewed. The main purpose of the interview will be to map the routes they rode on the injury trip. They will also be asked about weather and other conditions on the trip, the bicycle they used, the clothing they wore, and some personal data.
A research assistant will go to the injury location to gather data. Two other locations along the trip routes will also be visited. The information recorded will include the type of route, the type of intersection, car parking, junctions, traffic, route grade, route surface, lighting, and land use. The features of the injury site will be compared to those of the other locations. This will allow us to determine what features have elevated and reduced risks of injury.
Our "case-crossover design" focuses on infrastructure features; the comparisons are within a person-trip, thus controlling for personal characteristics and trip-specific weather and bicycle characteristics.
The results will provide sound evidence for transportation planners, allowing them to select cycling infrastructure that will improve the safety of cycling in Canadian cities. This should not only reduce the risk of traumatic injuries to cyclists, but, as a result, promote cycling as an urban transportation.
4. The unique factors
Our project focuses on injuries in adult cyclists and determines if the injury risks are related to the cycling environment. Most bicycle injury research has studied if helmets reduce head injuries in children, not adults.
Our study is the first to look at many features of the cycling environment:
- four major route types;
- eleven route sub-categories;
- the differenty types of intersection;
- the risk of injury at intersections compared to that on straight-aways;
- the impact of car parking and junctions on injuries.
We will do our research in two large urban Canadian centres with different weather and cycling patterns. The team includes university researchers, doctors, engineers, and city planners.
The study was conceived by faculty and graduate students in a special training program, "Bridging Public Health, Engineering and Policy Research".
5. How the project is relevant to the objectives of the initiative
We look at the risks of injury due to the environment, planning and design. This is a priority area for one of the funding partners, CIHR Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis.
Our research will also find out what environments are safer and therefore encourage cycling. This will contribute to a better understanding of how the built environment encourages or discourages physical activity.