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Bicyclist Safety Behaviors in an Urban Northeastern, United States City

An Observational Study

Wolfe, Elizabeth Suzanne CAGS, ATC; Arabian, Sandra Strack BS, CSTR, CAISS; Salzler, Matthew J. MD; Bugaev, Nikolay MD; Rabinovici, Reuven MD

doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000202

Bicycling is gaining popularity in the United States, and laws and safety recommendations are being established to keep bicyclists safer. To improve road safety for bicyclists, there is a need to characterize their compliance with road laws and safety behaviors. Adult bicyclists were observed at three high-traffic intersections in Boston, MA, with state recommendations of wearing a helmet and riding in a bike lane. State law compliance for displaying reflectors during the day and of a front light and a rear light/reflector at night, obeying traffic signals, and giving pedestrians the right of way was also observed. Variables were compared between personal and shared/rented bicyclists and analyzed by time of day. A total of 1,685 bicyclists were observed. Because of the speed of the bicyclists and obstructed views, only a sampling of 802 bicyclists was observed for reflectors/front light. Overall, 74% wore a helmet, 49% had reflectors/front lights, 95% rode in bike lanes, 87% obeyed traffic signals, and 99% gave the right of way to pedestrians. Compared with shared bicyclists (n = 122), personal bicyclists (n = 1563) had a higher helmet-wearing behaviors (77% vs. 39%, p = .0001). Shared bicyclists had a higher (p = .0001) compliance with reflectors/lights (100%) than personal bicyclists (39%, n = 265). Boston bicyclists ride in bike lanes, obey traffic signals, give pedestrians the right of way, and wear helmets while having suboptimal compliance with light/reflector use. Educational programs and stricter law enforcement aimed at these safety behaviors should be part of the effort to improve safety for all road users.

Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery (Mss Wolfe and Arabian, and Drs Bugaev and Rabinovici) and Department of Orthopaedics (Dr Salzler), Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence: Elizabeth Suzanne Wolfe, CAGS, ATC, Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington St #4488, Boston, MA 02111 (

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2016 by the Society of Trauma Nurses.