Lanes safer than hel­mets

Study mo­ti­vates mu­nic­i­palites to de­mar­cate cy­cling paths

The Witness - Wheels - - BIKING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

GOOD news for cy­clists still wait­ing on mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to wake up to cy­cle lanes — a fiveyear study of over 18 000 cy­cling in­juries in Canada show ded­i­cated lanes are much more ef­fec­tive than wear­ing hel­mets to lower risk of head in­juries.

The study, which was pub­lished on BMJ Jour­nals for health­care pro­fes­sion­als and re­searchers, echoed the sur­prise find­ing from a sim­i­lar 2006 study, which stated if hel­met laws were ef­fec­tive, far fewer adult cy­clist should show head in­juries,

The 2006 study an­a­lysed 10 504 hos­pi­talised cy­clists in sev­eral states, where hel­met wear­ing among adults in New Zealand had in­creased from 43% to 92%, but the in­juries did not de­crease.

Last week’s Cana­dian study shows “share mode trans­port” is a far bet­ter at low­er­ing head trauma from crashes than wear­ing a hel­mets.

The study states “hel­met leg­is­la­tion was not as­so­ci­ated with hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion rates for brain, head, scalp, skull, face or neck in­juries.

“Th­ese re­sults sug­gest that trans­porta­tion and health pol­i­cy­mak­ers who aim to re­duce bi­cy­cling in­jury rates in the pop­u­la­tion, should fo­cus on fac­tors re­lated to in­creased cy­cling mode share and fe­male cy­cling choices.

“Bi­cy­cling routes de­signed to be phys­i­cally sep­a­rated from traf­fic or along quiet streets fit both th­ese cri­te­ria and are as­so­ci­ated with lower rel­a­tive risks of in­jury,” con­cluded the study.

Wikipedia ex­plains modal share is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of sus­tain­able trans­port, with many cities set­ting tar­gets of 30% cy­cle and walk­ing lanes; 30% pub­lic trans­port, leav­ing 40% of the road space for pri­vate cars or mo­tor­bikes.

Ded­i­cated lanes in KZN

In KwaZulu-Na­tal, eThekwini is the only city to of­fer ded­i­cated cy­cling lanes, al­though the city’s jar­gon for a cy­cling lane is NMT — for “Non-Mo­torised Trans­port”.

eThekwini next plans to con­nect all ma­jor build­ings in the city cen­tre and ul­ti­mately repli­cated cy­cling lanes in other ma­jor nodes of eThekwini, in­clud­ing Pine­town, Um­lazi, KwaMashu and Umh­langa. The NMT plan is it­self in­cluded in the City’s In­te­grated Rapid Trans­port Net­work (IRPTN) pro­gramme.

Project man­ager from the eThekwini En­ergy Of­fice, Craig Richards, told Ur­ban Earth the cy­cling lane project is part of a broader NMT pro­gramme that eThekwini has em­barked on to im­prove cy­cling con­di­tions and in­fra­struc­ture in the city.

“Most projects thus far have fo­cused on im­prov­ing cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture in the city.

“Th­ese in­clude the Dur­ban beach­front and the routes that were de­vel­oped for COP17, which have been ex­tended re­cently us­ing fund­ing from KFW [Ger­man de­vel­op­ment bank] and the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs,” Richards said.

His of­fice hopes to raise the pro­file of cy­cling in the city and en­cour­age peo­ple to use bi­cy­cles to com­mute to and from work.

Method­ol­ogy

The Cana­dian study ex­am­ined ad­min­is­tra­tive data on hos­pi­tal stays for bi­cy­cling in­juries, cal­cu­lat­ing hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion rates based on na­tional sur­vey data of na­tional bi­cy­cling trips.

Dur­ing the study pe­riod be­tween 2006–2011, there was an av­er­age of 3 690 hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions per year and an es­ti­mated 593 mil­lion cy­cling trips among peo­ple 12 years of age and older, for a cy­cling hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion rate of 622 per 100 mil­lion trips.

Hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion rates var­ied sub­stan­tially across the ju­ris­dic­tion, age and sex strata, but only two char­ac­ter­is­tics ex­plained this vari­abil­ity.

For all in­jury causes, men con­sis­tently had more in­juries than women.

For traf­fic-re­lated in­jury causes, higher cy­cling mode share was con­sis­tently as­so­ci­ated with lower hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion rates.

PHOTO: UR­BAN EARTH MAR­GARET MCKEN­ZIE

A cy­clist on the bike lanes that con­nect Dur­ban’s Botanic Gar­dens in Berea to the CBD and the beach­front

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