Bike routes vs. arterials: Looking at the collision stats


Two weeks ago we had a discussion about cyclists riding on arterial roads instead of the City of Vancouver designated bike routes. Coincidentally, later that week ICBC released their statistics on reported bike/car crashes from 2006 to 2010. Shortly after releasing those statistics, a Vancouver programmer, Eric Promislow, created an online interactive map showing those collisions. The map is pretty interesting. Among other things, it highlights just how dangerous the Burrard St Bridge remains.

In light of our discussion about riding on arterials, I took the stats and looked at how many collisions occurred on the arterial roads in Kits, and how many occurred on the bike routes.

Get the hard numbers on bike routes vs. arterials after the jump.

Kitsilano bike routes

Some things to keep in mind: Kits is bounded by False Creek/English Bay to the north, Burrard St. to the east, 16th Ave. to the south, and Alma St/Dunbar St. to the west. In cases where collisions were reported at intersections of bike routes and arterials, I counted those collisions towards both tallies. I did not include the Burrard St Bridge statistics in the table below.

As you head west through Kits, 12th Ave turns into 10th Ave., and I broke this into two segments so that I could compare the 10th Ave bike route which effectively ends where 12th turns into 10th. Also, some of the arterials do not have an equivalent bike route, some of the bike routes map to multiple arterials, and one of the bike routes does not correspond to an arterial at all. I included the Highbury bike route for reference, even though it is technically in Point Grey. Further, some of these bike routes did not exist over the whole time period, so I’ve also included the stats for just the last year.

Collision stats: Arterials vs. bike routes

Arterials 2006 – 2010 2010 only Bike routes 2006 – 2010 2010 only
16th Ave 10 3
12th Ave 4 1 10th Ave 17 4
10th Ave 8 3
Broadway 47 9 Off-Broadway 23 9
4th Ave 23 4 Seaside 4 1
Pt Grey Rd / Cornwall Ave 43 16 Seaside 4 1
Alma St 12 5 Highbury 5 2
Macdonald St 22 7 Valley 9 1
Arbutus St 14 4 Cypress 43 14
Burrard St 32 9 Cypress 43 14
Balaclava 4 1

Keep in mind that these statistics do not include an important piece of information: how much bicycle traffic is on each route. As such, we can’t infer a whole lot from the fact that some routes have considerably fewer number of collisions than others, since there may be considerably fewer cyclists using those routes. Also, these are only *reported* collisions between vehicles and cyclists.

Looking at the table, some surprising things emerge. First, the Cypress bike route is as dangerous as the Pt. Grey Rd./Cornwall Ave arterial. I’d hazard to guess that the Cypress bike route is the most-travelled bike route through Kits, accounting for its high numbers. But the sheer number of collisions is troubling.

What makes Cypress so dangerous? Is the city doing anything to improve safety along the route? The next most dangerous bike route in kits is Off-Broadway, and again I suspect that’s due to the number of cyclists.

In the comparison between arterials and the corresponding bike routes, in most cases the bike routes show fewer collisions than the arterials. This does not hold true on 12th Ave. vs. 10th Ave. bike routes, but again I suspect there are considerably fewer cyclists on the narrow, high-volume 12th Ave. Broadway is very dangerous, even when you add the Off-Broadway and 10th Ave. bike routes together.

Surprising to me, the Pt. Grey Rd./Cornwall Ave. arterial shows a large number of collisions. Many of these collisions occur by Kits Beach, making me wonder if these are casual (and, uh, impaired) cyclists. The corresponding seaside bike route shows very few collisions.

With some hard numbers available, does this change your opinion about cyclists on arterials?

Last modified: December 19, 2011

5 Responses to " Bike routes vs. arterials: Looking at the collision stats "

  1. Jessica Oman says:

    The Cypress stats are interesting. I find it to be a really safe route. It would help to know where on the route these crashes occur – I could see 37th being a troublesome area because of the angled 4-way stop that no one, cyclists or otherwise, ever stops at.

    Cornwall is not surprising; have you seen how narrow it is?

  2. Anthony says:

    You can click through to the interactive map to see all the locations. In terms of Cypress, most of the crashes happen between 14th and Cornwall. South of 14th there are only 15 reported crashes along the whole route up to SW Marine Dr over the 5 years. No reported crashes at 37th.

    I have seen Cornwall. In fact, I posted a few videos on what it’s like riding on Cornwall vs riding on the suggested bike route: and

  3. Mike Jones says:

    Hmmm, Cypress is pretty steep and has numerous round-abouts. I don’t know what the truth is, but I find round-abouts can be a little nervous when I’m going quick on a bike and don’t have good vision of what’s coming towards

  4. Andrew E says:

    The Cypress stats don’t really surprise me. In the winter months, the street between 8th Ave and 4th Ave has quite a bit of black ice. I’ve skidded out more than once on that strip of the road and I’ve seen others do the same (I’m a lot more careful now and if I think there’s some black ice, I walk a bit). Luckily, there hasn’t been any oncoming traffic when I have skidded or seen it, but I could easily imagine collisions if a car happens to be nearby.

    Things that could help:

    1. Some sort of “Caution slippery when cold” sign
    2. Throwing some extra gravel or salt on that strip of road in the winter
    3. … I’m sure there are other ideas.