Research: framework for analyzing safety of commercial bike-riders

Jobs using bicycles have diversified beyond bicycle messengering and seen a recent surge, especially with respect to the delivery of meals, parcels, and more. Urban freight companies are also increasingly using cargo bicycles for last-mile logistics. As cyclist workers are now part of a growing and diversifying set of industries, improving their safety is increasingly important and request responses from actors within and outside of the profession.

Using 36 interviews of commercial cyclists, employers, contractors, and entrepreneurs in the Canadian Montreal metropolitan area, Lachappele et. al. developed a framework for occupational safety factors related to risks of near collisions, collisions, and injuries for different types of cyclist workers. The framework presents 21 factors organized in four large categories that may be associated with safety and health issues:

  1. individual characteristics and traits (experience, risk-taking behavior)
  2. work type and working conditions
  3. exposure levels
  4. external factors (not related to workers or companies).

Workers have different backgrounds and working conditions, use different bicycle types and other equipment, and are accordingly potentially exposed to distinct and varying levels of risk. Many injuries are reported. Personal health issues including repetitive stress injuries, mental exertion, and food intake emerged from interviews as a potentially risk-enhancing feature. Commission-based work performed in crowded business districts during peak traffic periods are likely the three highest road-related injury risk given exposure levels.

Experience of cyclists and the promotion of safe practices by employers are key protective factors, but pay structure may be the single most important feature to improve the safety of workers. Because using bicycles as work tools will grow over time, it is important to understand how city planning, work organization, industry regulation, and education of workers and employers may reduce risks to commercial cyclists on the roads.

What we know about commuter cyclists is likely an inappropriate proxy. The proposed framework serves as partial evidence of the need for action and inferential research. It can guide the development of survey instruments and safety data collection protocols that can be used to assess working conditions, risks, and the circumstances surrounding injuries and fatalities. It can also inform the development of workplace policies, legal requirements, and appropriate training programs to ensure safe working conditions.

Recent Dutch research looks at the technical specification of the carbo bikes with regard to road safety and protecting the bike-riders.

Source: Ugo Lachapelle, David Carpentier-Laberge, Marie-Soleil Cloutier, Lily Ranger, A framework for analyzing collisions, near misses and injuries of commercial cyclists, Journal of Transport Geography, Volume 90, 2021

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