Sufficient safety measures still do not exist for cyclists that take to intercity highways on weekend mornings – an ever-increasing and dangerous phenomenon – the National Road Safety Authority said, in a recently released report.

As the use of bicycles has increased throughout Israel, one of the largest groups of riders has become the sport-riding clubs that take to suburban and intercity roads on weekends, the authority explained.

Due to the dangers involved with such cycling, the authority commissioned a survey that examined cycling patterns on these roads during November 2011, on Saturdays, between 6 and 11 a.m., conducted by the Ran Naor Center at the Technion, and the Geocartography Geocartography Knowledge Group.

Although the number of cyclists injured in accidents on nonurban roads is low compared to the total number of causalities on these roads – 3 percent of all deaths and 1% of all injuries – the severity of biking accidents on nonurban roads is much higher than those on municipal streets, the authority stressed.

Despite the dangers of this type of cycling, it continues to increase and has jolted the National Road Safety Authority to seek safety solutions.

All in all, the survey looked at 36 intersections throughout the country – 16 in the North, 10 in the Center and Jerusalem and 10 in the South – and measured the number of bikes passing through, as well as more detailed information about a select sample of riders.

The researchers considered traffic volume to be high on a stretch of open road when there were more than 20 riders in an hour, or 100 in five hours, and at an intersection if there were over 30 in one hour, or 150 in five hours.

The busiest cycling intersections were Hagvura Junction on Road 3 (987 riders in five hours), Shimshon Junction on Road 38 (723 riders), Kfar Menachem Junction on Road 3 (373 riders), Azeka Junction on Road 38 (353 riders) and Elikim Junction on Road 70 (308 riders) – the Center showing the largest percentage of high volume cycling, according to the report.

Once again ending up with the highest volume of riders in the country’s center, observers found Road 44 from Shimshon Junction to HaGvura Junction to be the most populated (638 riders in five hours), followed by Road 38 from Tzora Junction to Shimshon Junction (629 riders) and Road 3 from Sorek Interchange to Nachshon Junction (559 riders).

In 2012, 39 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents, 13 in urban areas and 26 between cities. Of the 39 deaths, 27 died in accidents with other vehicles and 12 in isolated incidents. In 2011, 48 motorcyclists died in traffic accidents.

In the more detailed observation of select cyclists, the researchers studied the behavior of 1,541 people, the survey explained. On roads all over the country, most of the riders (55% to 69%) were traveling alone, and those riding together were typically in small groups of between two and five. In the North, 77% of riders stayed on the shoulder of the road, while in the Center and Jerusalem region, only 30% rode there and in the South, only 36%, the report said.

In all regions, only about 15% to 17% of cycling groups were accompanied by vehicles.

As far as riding equipment goes, in all regions most cyclists riding alone wore helmets (93-96%) and cycling apparel (87-92%), as did those in groups (96-99% and 94- 95% respectively). Solitary riders were 93-96% male, and groups were 73-80% all male and 20-26% mixed gender, according to the report. Meanwhile, the majority of people riding alone and in groups were over 30 years old.

Looking at all of the findings, the survey’s authors stressed that such detailed information will be critical “in planning riding areas, implementing changes to traffic regulations regarding riding on roads, planning advocacy activities and planning intervention activities for cycling safety.”

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