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J Urban Health. 2018 Apr;95(2):196-207. doi: 10.1007/s11524-017-0222-6.

Traveling by Bus Instead of Car on Urban Major Roads: Safety Benefits for Vehicle Occupants, Pedestrians, and Cyclists.

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Université de Montréal Public Health Research Institute (IRSPUM) & Montréal Public Health Department, Montréal, Canada.
Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, Canada.
Agence Métropolitaine de Transport, Montréal, Canada.
Montréal Public Health Department, Montréal, Canada.
Société de transport de Montréal, Montreal, Canada.


Some studies have estimated fatality and injury rates for bus occupants, but data was aggregated at the country level and made no distinction between bus types. Also, injured pedestrians and cyclists, as a result of bus travel, were overlooked. We compared injury rates for car and city bus occupants on specific urban major roads, as well as the cyclist and pedestrian injuries associated with car and bus travel. We selected ten bus routes along major urban arterials (in Montreal, Canada). Passenger-kilometers traveled were estimated from vehicle counts at intersections (2002-2010) and from bus passenger counts (2008). Police accident reports (2001-2010) provided injury data for all modes. Injury rates associated with car and bus travel were calculated for vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and cyclists. Injury rate ratios were also computed. The safety benefits of bus travel, defined as the number of vehicle occupant, cyclist, and pedestrian injuries saved, were estimated for each route. Overall, for all ten routes, the ratio between car and bus occupant injury rates is 3.7 (95% CI [3.4, 4.0]). The rates of pedestrian and cyclist injuries per hundred million passenger-kilometers are also significantly greater for car travel than that for bus travel: 4.1 (95% CI [3.5, 4.9]) times greater for pedestrian injuries; 5.3 (95% CI [3.8, 7.6]) times greater for cyclist injuries. Similar results were observed for fatally and severely injured vehicle occupants, cyclists, and pedestrians. At the route level, the safety benefits of bus travel increase with the difference in injury rate associated with car and bus travel but also with the amount of passenger-kilometers by bus. Results show that city bus is a safer mode than car, for vehicle occupants but also for cyclists and pedestrians traveling along these bus routes. The safety benefits of bus travel greatly vary across urban routes; this spatial variation is most likely linked to environmental factors. Understanding the safety benefits of public transit for specific transport routes is likely to provide valuable information for mobilizing city and transportation planners.


Injury rates and rate ratios; Pedestrian and cyclist safety; Public transit and car safety; Road injuries

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