How does a modal shift from short car trips to cycling affect road safety?

Accid Anal Prev. 2013 Jan;50:1118-27. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2012.09.004. Epub 2012 Oct 4.


Governments aim to promote a shift from car to bicycle, but concerns about road safety seem to represent an important argument against this encouragement. This study examines the road safety impact of a modal shift from short car trips to cycling in Dutch municipalities. The road safety effect is estimated using Accident Prediction Models (APMs) that account for the non-linearity of risk. APMs are developed utilizing Negative Binomial regression. This study is the first to develop APMs using crash and mobility data from municipalities, and utilizing these models to estimate the effects of changing modal splits of current car and bicycle use to modal splits that actually exist in these municipalities. The results suggest that, under conditions such as in Dutch municipalities, transferring short trips made by cars to bicycles does not change the number of fatalities, but increases the number of serious road injuries. The neutral effect on fatalities, despite the high fatality risk for cyclists, can be explained by there being fewer cars on the road to pose a risk to others, the shorter length of bicycle trips compared to the car trips they replace, and the "safety in numbers" phenomenon. The rise in the number of serious road injuries is due wholly to the high number of cycling crashes with no other vehicle involved. The effect of a modal shift is dependent on the age of the population in which the shift is concentrated, and can be influenced by measures affecting cyclists' injury risk.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Bicycling / injuries*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology