This study compares the safety of bicyclists riding on bicycle boulevards to those riding on parallel arterial routes in Berkeley, California. Literature on the impact of motor vehicle traffic characteristics on cyclist safety shows that high motor vehicle speeds and volumes and the presence of heavy vehicles are all detrimental to cyclist safety. This suggests that cyclists may be safer on side streets than on busy arterials. Bicycle boulevards—traffic-calmed side streets signed and improved for cyclist use—purport to offer cyclists a safer alternative to riding on arterials. Police-reported bicycle collision data and manually collected cyclist count data from bicycle boulevards and parallel arterial routes in Berkeley, California from 2003 to 2010 are used to test the hypothesis that Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards have lower cyclist collision rates and a lower proportion of bicycle collisions resulting in severe injury. While no significant difference is found in the proportion of collisions that are severe, results show that collision rates on Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards are two to eight times lower than those on parallel, adjacent arterial routes. The difference in collision rate is highly statistically significant, unlikely to be caused by any bias in the collision and count data, and cannot be easily explained away by self-selection or safety in numbers. Though the used dataset is limited and the study design is correlational, this study provides some evidence that Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards are safer for cyclists than its parallel arterial routes. The results may be suggestive that, more generally, properly implemented bicycle boulevards can provide cyclists with a safer alternative to riding on arterials.
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