Jackie Williamson is researching cycling conditions.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

Moving cars biggest danger to cyclists

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Research opportunities at the University of Calgary are not just limited to professors. Fourth-year health sciences student Jackie Williamson has taken advantage of the undergraduate research opportunities on campus by completing a study looking at the dangers involved in cycling. 

“We looked at several different risk factors, including environmental characteristics, such as the type of surface that an impact occurred on and weather conditions,” said Williamson. “We also looked at cyclist-specific characteristics — experience level, whether or not they were wearing a helmet or any other kind of protective devices — and looking at motor vehicle collisions.”

Research for the study was done by looking at children who were admitted to hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton from 2008–2010. Funding for the study came from the Markin Undergraduate Research Program.

The study found that collisions with motor vehicles presented the greatest risk of injury to cyclists. 

“There appears to be nearly four times the odds of a severe injury if you’re involved in a motor vehicle incident. That’s compared to any other injury event, such as hitting a stationary vehicle, hitting a curb or falling off your bike on your own,” said Williamson. 

The study reiterated previous research that stresses the importance of helmets in preventing severe bicycling injuries. 

“There’s two and a half times the risk of severe injury if you are not wearing a helmet,” said Williamson. “It should come as no surprise to anybody.”

Higher speed limits are also a prominent risk factor to cyclists.

“There was about three times the risk of severe injury if you were riding in an area with a posted speed limit of over 50 kilometres per hour,” said Williamson.

According to Williamson, a passion for cycling and athletics helped inspire her research. 

“I’ve been an avid athlete since I was a wee tot,” said Williamson. “I’ve had my fair share of bumps and bruises.”