Study advises Surrey to keep LRT lines and bike routes separate

Bicycles and light rail lines a bad mix, study reveals

Artist conception of Surrey light rail transit

SURREY — A joint study by UBC and Ryerson universities suggests Surrey should keep its bike routes and light rail transit lines separate when it builds them if the city wants to avoid the high level of cyclist crashes Toronto has experienced.

Researchers examined 276 bike crashes between May 2008 and November 2009 in downtown Toronto — serious crashes that sent people to hospital — and found 139 happened near streetcar tracks and 87, nearly one-third of all Toronto’s bike crashes, involved the tracks themselves.

Surrey proposes to build a 27-kilometre network of LRT with 19 stations, serving roughly 170,000 riders each day.

“This would be a great time to create separated bike and rail lines,” says Professor Kay Teschke, of UBC’s school of population and public health. “Physically separated lanes are a wonderful way for two environmentally friendly modes of transportation to run safely together.”

Surrey plans to build two LRT lines. The L-Line will run along 104th Avenue connecting the city centre with Guildford Town Centre and also along King George Boulevard, connecting the city centre with Newton Town Centre at 72nd Avenue. The Surrey-Langley Line will run along Fraser Highway, connecting Surrey’s city centre with Fleetwood, Clayton, the Township of Langley and the City of Langley.

During Surrey’s 2014 civic election campaign Hepner promised a rider-ready LRT by 2018 but she has since conceded that it will likely still be under construction at that time.

Hepner said Surrey’s LRT lines will run down the middle of the road. “I do not believe the two modes will be in conflict,” she said.  “As they’re designing it, my expectation is a separated laneway. I don’t expect that to be an issue with the system they’re designing at all.”

The study, published this week in the BMC Public Health journal, found that many bike tires commonly sold are slimmer than the smallest of track flangeways.

“Riding as a cyclist in Toronto you always feel that streetcar tracks are a hazard, and we all have our near misses, but our study is one of the first to put a number to this risk,” said Assistant Professor Anne Harris, at Ryerson’s school of occupational and public health. “The fact that about a third of the Toronto bike injuries in our study involved streetcar tracks really underlined the danger to me.”

So far this year Surrey has recorded eight traffic fatalities, none of which involved cyclists. Five of the eight involved pedestrians.

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