THURSDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Cyclists using special bike-only tracks that are physically separated from street traffic have fewer accidents compared to bikers pedalling alongside motor vehicles, a new study finds.
"We found that there is a 28 percent lower injury rate when bicycling on cycle tracks, compared with bicycling in parallel and comparable roads," noted study lead author Anne Lusk, a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
"Of course, intersections do have to be well-designed, ideally with red and green bicycle signals," Lusk added. "And even then, we're not suggesting that cycle tracks have zero risk. But rigorous research does show that the difference in the accident rate is real."
Lusk and her team report their findings in a recent issue of Injury Prevention.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 51,000 American cyclists suffered injuries as a result of encounters with motor vehicles in 2009, with such accidents accounting for two percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States (according to 2008 figures).
So it's not surprising that surveys have consistently shown that many American cyclists -- particularly women, seniors, and parents who cycle with their children -- are afraid of pedaling on traffic-heavy roads.
Although designated bike lanes kept wholly separate from the road are a common feature in many other countries, they remain a relatively rare phenomenon in the United States. In the U.S, bike lanes typically consist of merely a painted stripe on the pavement delineating cyclists' portion of the road.
In contrast, the Netherlands -- a country half the size of South Carolina, with just under 17 million residents -- is home to about 18,000 miles of separate cycle tracks, the researchers noted. By comparison, across the ent
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