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Research Shows Cycling Lanes Lower Risk of Vehicular-Related Fatalities

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Cycling is a fun and rewarding physical activity in which millions of Americans participate. A form of aerobic exercise, it's been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. And while some people are reluctant to cycle on public roads, fearing they could be struck and killed by a vehicle, you can stay safe while cycling by riding in a dedicated cycling lane.

According to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado Denver, creating dedicated cycling lanes on public roads lowers the risk of vehicular-related fatalities and, therefore, a safer environment for drivers and cyclists alike.

Researchers originally theorized that the presence of cycling lanes would lead to more vehicular-related fatalities. As the number of cycling lanes increased in an area, so would the number of cyclists. And with more cyclists in an area, researchers theorized that more fatality-causing accidents would occur. Surprisingly, though, adding more cycling lanes to an area had the opposite effect: It lowered rates of vehicular-related fatalities.

For the study, researchers analyzed over a decade's worth of data covering 12 major U.S. cities, some of which included Denver, Portland, Kansas City and Dallas. Over the course of the study, researchers found that cycling activities increased by roughly 51%, suggesting that more Americans are now choosing to cycle than drive a vehicle.

Of course, the most interesting finding from this study was the impact cycling lanes had on an area's rate of vehicular-related fatalities. When cycling lanes were added to an area, it resulted in a dramatic drop in vehicle-related fatalities. In Portland, for example, the number of vehicular-related fatalities decreased by 75% in response to new cycling lanes added to the city.

"Focusing on fatalities -- not crashes -- is important," said Wesley Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor and the study's lead author. "Over the years, my research has found that safer cities have fewer fatalities but more fender benders."

What should you take away from this study? If you cycle, whether for leisure or business purposes, be sure to ride in a dedicated cycling lane if one is available. Not all cities have dedicated cycling lanes. Some only have conventional roads that are shared by motorists and cyclists alike. But if there's a cycling lane present, riding your bike in it rather than on the main road will lower your risk of injury and death.

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