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UB Study Finds Multiple Factors Affect Bike Crashes, Injuries

Published October 4, 2013

Dietrich V. Jehle, MD

Dietrich V. Jehle, MD

When bicyclists collide with motor vehicles, multiple factors—including alcohol, lighting conditions and speed—contribute to the severity of injuries, according to a new University at Buffalo study.

“Our findings show that bike lanes or paved shoulders by themselves do not significantly reduce the severity of injuries sustained by cyclists when they crash with motor vehicles.”
Dietrich V. Jehle, MD
Professor of emergency medicine

Although previous research has shown that bike lanes reduce the number of bike-motor vehicle accidents, “our findings show that bike lanes or paved shoulders by themselves do not significantly reduce the severity of injuries sustained by cyclists when they crash with  motor vehicles,” says Dietrich V. Jehle, MD, professor of emergency medicine.

Jehle conducted the study with first author Kelsey Helak, a third-year medical student.

Speed, Light, Alcohol Affect Severity of Injuries

“The data show that other factors may be more important in reducing the severity of cyclists’ injuries,” says Jehle.

Key factors affecting severity of injury are:

  • alcohol use by either the cyclist or the motor vehicle driver
  • riding in darkness, even with streetlights
  • posted speed limit

Bike Lane Versus Motorists’ Lane

The UB researchers examined whether cyclists injured in accidents with motor vehicles who used bike lanes had less severe injuries than cyclists sharing the same lanes as motor vehicles.

They found that the severity of injuries to cyclists was almost the same.

The study controlled for posted speed limit, alcohol use by the motor vehicle driver, time of day, weather and cyclists’ use of helmets.

Study Used National Highway Traffic Safety Data

The study was based on 2010 data on cycling injury severity from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as 2002-2010 data about factors affecting bike-motor vehicle crashes. 

According to the NHTSA, only 1 percent of trips in the United States are made by bicycle, yet bicyclists account for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Presented at Society of Academic Emergency Medicine

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine, in Atlanta.

Other co-authors, both from the Department of Emergency Medicine, are:

  • Joseph Consiglio, data manager/statistician and a biostatistics graduate student in UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions
  • Juliana Wilson, DO, postdoctoral student