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Protected cycle lanes and cyclists’ behaviour and perceptions of safety

Due to the climate crisis, and many other benefits associated with cycling, governments worldwide have been advised to increase their country’s cycling mode share. However, in many places, including New Zealand, cycling rates are still low. Research has determined that a central barrier to cycling in countries with low cycling rates is the perception cycling is unsafe. Unfortunately, this perception is accurate in many places, including New Zealand. Protected cycle lanes (PCLs) are a possible solution to both problems; research shows that people tend to feel safer in them, and, in many places, they improve crash rates for cyclists. However, some studies have found conflicting results regarding PCLs’ safety benefits. A possible reason crash rates increase in some places is that cyclists travel faster in them due to either a decreased mental workload or from feeling safer. The theories underpinning the hypothesis were Fuller’s Task-Capability Interface model of driving behaviour and Summala’s Zero-Risk Theory. Two studies were performed to see if PCLs improve measures related to use (like perceptions of safety) in New Zealand and if bicyclists’ speeds increase relative to painted cycle lanes. These studies were an online questionnaire and an on-road experiment with a post-ride questionnaire. The studies found that cyclists in New Zealand felt safer on PCLs, were more willing to allow their children to bike on them, showed less concern towards hazards, and believed they would experience less dread in coming up to them than on painted bike lanes. Additionally, a relationship between physical separation and increased speed was not found. In terms of theory, a consistent relationship between feeling safe or having a lower mental workload and speed was not observed either. Further research is required to reassess the latter two findings as this study was the first of its kind, and environmental factors may have affected the results. However, so far, the findings are promising that PCLs are a good (and safe) intervention to increase cycling rates in New Zealand.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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