CycleWR conducted an online survey in the Spring of 2022. We were interested in how people on bicycles perceive the risks of the infrastructure they ride on. The survey itself is available should you wish to consult the original questions. We would be happy to provide a copy to other cycling organizations who wish to use it as a starting point for their own survey.
- Conventional (Painted) Bike Lanes do not serve the majority of the potential cycling population.
- Multi-Use Paths are strongly preferred over Conventional Bike Lanes
- When riding on cycle tracks, cyclists strongly prefer barrier (full-height) curbs over mountable (roll) curbs
- Signed wayfinding bypass routes could be effective stopgaps when true infrastructure can’t be built quickly
- One bidirectional 3.0 metre paved shoulder is substantially preferred over two 1.5 metre one-way paved shoulders.
- Simply putting Local Bike Route signs on a residential street without any other changes has almost no value.
“AAA facilities” are continuous and connected street infrastructure, including Separated Bike Lanes and Cycle Tracks, Multi-Use Paths and Multi-Use Trails that support “All Ages and Abilities” in walking and cycling to common everyday destinations.
“Conventional Bike Lanes” (also known as painted bike lanes) are one-way cyclist-only lanes on both sides of the road surface. The cycling lanes have no physical separation from the cars, just a painted line. They are typically 1.5 metres (5 feet) wide, including the 0.3 metre (1 foot) gutter.
“Busy Street” means a two-lane or wider road with substantial traffic volume (more than 500 cars per hour during the day). Examples would be Cedar Street or Pinebush Road in Cambridge, Weber Street or Fischer-Hallman Road in KW.
“Cycle Tracks” are cyclist-only bikeways in the boulevard beside the road that are separated from the travelled portion of the roadway both vertically (by a curb) and horizontally (by a buffer zone). They may be one-way or two-way.
A “Multi-Use Path” (also known as a Boulevard Multi-Use Trail) is a two-way paved surface, in the boulevard beside the road. They typically have a riding surface of 3.0 metres (10 feet), and a buffer of 0.6 metres (2 feet) or more from the curb/cars. Both pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to use them.
A “Multi-Use Trail” is similar to a Multi-Use Path, but it runs in a dedicated corridor separate from the road right of way (e.g. a park or other green space).
“Paved Shoulder” is an extra width of paved surface beside the main car lane, with a painted line but no physical separation from the cars and no curb. It can be used by cyclists, pedestrians and stopped vehicles.
“Separated Bike Lanes” are cyclist-only lanes on the road surface, physically separated from pedestrians and cars. There is a horizontal buffer zone between the bicycle lane and the car lanes, plus some physical impediment to stop cars from encroaching into the bicycle lane. For the purposes of this survey, the impediment was stated to be either concrete or planters. Pedestrians have their own sidewalk. These lanes could be one-way (on both sides of the street) or two-way (on one side of the street).
Participation in the survey was very good with 390 responses.
89% of responses were for individuals and the remainder on behalf of families or children.
The largest age group was 30-49 (43%) while 8.2% were for children and youth (<20) and 13% for seniors.
Geographically, the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo had the largest number of respondents and there were 7.2% from Cambridge, 4.6% from the townships and 3.1% from outside Waterloo Region.
Cycling Risk Tolerance
Perhaps the most critical demographic is a self-described characterization of how comfortable the person is riding in traffic.
We considered category (1) to be the “no way, no how” category in the classic 4-category cycling risk tolerance breakdown. Categories (2), (3), and (4) are considered “Interested but Concerned”. Category (5) is “Enthused and Confident” (Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18 (OTM18) calls this “Somewhat Confident”) and category (6) is “Strong and Fearless” (OTM18 calls this “Highly Confident”).
A Note on Weighted Results
Overall, the survey sample is not a good representation of the total population. We did not have the resources to do a random population sample. Instead, we advertised to our mailing list and social media, cycling shops, and cycling clubs. We expected the survey would be biased – it would have very few “no way, no how” responses and would be significantly overweighted towards experienced cyclists – categories (5) and (6). Both expectations were correct.
With only four responses from category 1 (no way, no how), there would be no statistical validity to any summary at that level. We decided to show a total using categories 2-6 only, and reweight the raw data to eliminate the bias so that it is representative of the typical cycling population.
We started by averaging the results for categories (2), (3) and (4) into one “Interested but Concerned” average, and the results for categories (5) and (6) into one “Enthused + Fearless” average. Based on the average results from two major American studies, “Interested but Concerned” has about 53.5% of the total population, “Enthused + Fearless” has about 12.5%, and “no way, no how” has 34%. When we eliminate the “no way, no how” portion of the population, “Interested but Concerned” becomes 81.1% of the total cycling population, and “Enthused + Fearless” becomes 18.9% of the total cycling population. We calculated our “unbiased” overall average as 81% of the “Interested but Concerned” result plus 19% of the “Enthused + Fearless” result. We called this the “OTM 18 Weighted Average” because the two studies were also used to define the ranges shown in Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18 for the percentage of cyclists in the major risk tolerance categories.
Questions for Drivers
86% of respondents drive a car. Since almost all also ride a bike, this is not necessarily a representative sample of drivers.
Drivers show a strong preference (80%) for Separated Bike Lanes versus Conventional Bike Lanes (10%.)
76% of drivers preferred to see an off-road Multi-Use Path versus on-road Conventional Bike Lanes (19.2%.)
Questions for Cyclists
Preference Between Multi-Use Paths and Conventional Bike Lanes
Cyclists too were clear on their preference for Multi-Use Paths over Conventional Bike Lanes. Naturally, the preference was less pronounced for Enthusiastic and Fearless, but they still favoured Multi-Use Paths.
Multi-Use Path Safety Scores In Various Driveway Crossing Scenarios
Here we show the average rating of the perceived safety of Multi-Use Paths in several scenarios. The lower values are for higher perceived safety (1 = “extremely safe” and 8 = “extremely unsafe”.)
It is notable that residential driveways crossing Multi-Use Paths (MUPs in the chart) are not a significant concern for cyclists. Where many commercial driveways are present, the road often has four or more lanes. In this case, perhaps a “road diet” could be considered to allow space for Cycle Tracks or Separated Bike Lanes.
Preferred Unprotected Infrastructure on a Busy Street
We asked about the relative safety of different treatments on a busy street that fall short of protected infrastructure. A score of 1 represents extremely safe and 8 is extremely unsafe. While this section uses the same scoring approach as the section on Multi-Use Paths, it is not directly comparable, as here we only asked for one rating, presumably for the “average” number and type of driveway crossings.
Note that the double-width paved shoulder is considered significantly safer than either standard width paved shoulders or Conventional Bike Lanes.
For reference, on this same 8-point scale, a Multi-Use Path with mainly residential driveways had an OTM18 weighted average score of 2.83, and two 1.5 metre one-way Cycle Tracks scored 2.61.
Fully Separate Cycling Facilities
Preferred Cycle Track Curb Option
Respondents left no doubt about their preference for barrier (full) curbs over mountable (roll) curbs on Cycle Tracks – providing better protection and discouraging parked vehicles. They were given these images to choose between:
We asked about preferences when space is constrained and perhaps the ideal design is not practical. The three scenarios below compare two options that require the same amount of total space.
Preference Between Cycle Tracks and Separated Bike Lanes
Off-road Cycle Tracks (with a full curb as indicated elsewhere) were preferred over on-road Separated Bike Lanes (with physical protection from cars – concrete or planters) although the contrast is not as marked as in many other questions.
Preference Between Two-Way and One-Way Cycle Tracks
All categories of cyclists prefer two one-way Cycle Tracks over one two-way Cycle Track when space allows.
Separated Bike Lanes – Preference Between A Wider Riding Surface and More Separation From Cars
People were asked whether they prefer a wider barrier with better separation from cars and a narrower riding surface or a wider riding surface with a narrower barrier providing less separation. They chose more separation.
Preferred Residential Street Changes
We asked: “You are riding on a local residential street with a 50 km/hr speed limit. Rank the following in terms of how much it would improve your feeling of safety.”
The chart below shows average scores for four possible changes, with scores from 1 (least preferred) to 4 (most preferred).
Simply adding local bike route signage gave little comfort. Lowering the speed limit to 40 km/h was almost equal value to adding speed bumps.
Wayfinding Routes to Bypass an Unsafe Street
We asked people how far out of the way they would be willing to go if they could ride on less stressful residential streets (facilitated by wayfinding signage) rather than a busy street. The charts below show the percentage of cyclists who would use the longer wayfinding route, depending on how much longer it is. We presented two scenarios, one with no cycling facility on the busy street and the second with Conventional Bike Lanes on the busy street.
As might be expected, the Enthusiastic and Fearless riders are less willing to go out of their way to avoid riding with traffic, with or without Conventional Bike Lanes. However, for both the Interested but Concerned and Enthusiastic and Fearless groups, more than 90% would take the wayfinding route if there was no cycling facility on the busy street and the “detour” added less than 20% to the length of the ride. This indicates a clear opportunity to set up cheap and useful “bypass” routes when AAA infrastructure cannot be built quickly.