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The Conveyance Conflict: Motor Vehicles Vs. Bicycles

The outcome of a collision between two vehicles is difficult to predict. However, in crashes that involve a motor vehicle of any size and a bicycle of average size, the physics of a 4,000 to 5,000-pound car or truck colliding with a conveyance averaging 17 pounds in weight will likely see the cyclist suffering severe, if not fatal injuries.

Bicycling has skyrocketed in popularity with many cities committed to becoming bike friendly communities. However, with more people pedaling instead of pressing an accelerator, bicycle safety is a continuing concern nationwide.

Flagstaff is one of many cities where cyclists enjoy miles of bike trails and various sustainable riding events. It is also the home of Northern Arizona University where Edward Smaglik, professor of civil engineering, has been trying to find ways to prevent bicycle-motor vehicle accidents.

Smaglik’s focus is on the most common crash sites: intersections with traffic signals. Most accidents in these locations involve a “right-hook,” when a vehicle turning right collides with a bicyclist attempting to navigate through the intersection on the same side of the street.

Possible solutions include:

  • Traffic signal timing in different phases depending on the vehicle
  • Restricting traffic and right turns for a few seconds at the beginning of their respective phases
  • Immediate and concurrent green lights for bikes, pedestrians and “through vehicles”

In an ideal world, Professor Smaglik would like to see communities nationwide implement countermeasures for what he deems “bicycle-motor conflicts” at signalized intersections. With this study and other successful initiatives in his past, he is hopeful that motor vehicles and bikes can cooperate and coexist with minimal catastrophe.

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