More Bike Lanes are Safer for…Motorists!

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By Charles Pekow

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoIf motorists object to adding bike lanes or parking – just tell them the more bicyclists, the safer the drivers are too. Yes, there's a study to prove that cities with a higher percentage of bike riders and more bicycle infrastructure encounter a lower proportion of crashes involving cyclists, motorists and everybody else.

The title of the study asks the question: Why are Bike-Friendly Cities Safer for All Road Users? It was done at the University of Colorado and looked at data from 12 large American cities over 13 years. “Better safety outcomes are…associated with a greater prevalence of bike facilities – particularly protected and separated bike facilities,” the researchers conclude.

What makes it so? The study doesn't pretend to know for sure. But through a lot of statistical analysis of all the crash data, the researchers conclude that the presence of infrastructure for cyclists promotes safety more than the number of people riding it. They speculate that just the presence of bike lanes makes motorists more alert and slows them down, and the slower the speed, the less likely the crash.

The authors also warn that their conclusions are not generalizable, as they only looked at large cities in this country and other factors may come into play elsewhere. Large cities may have more traffic calming measures, slower speeds and higher density of all users.

See https://www.ugpti.org/resources/reports/downloads/mpc18-351.pdf.

Reference: Marshall, Wesley E., Nick Ferenchak, and Bruce Janson.  Why are Bike-Friendly Cities Safer for All Road Users?. No. MPC 18-351. 2018.

 

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Charles Pekow is an award-winning Washington correspondent who has written about bicycling for years in publications such as the Washington Post, Bicycle Times, Dirt Rag, SPOKES, etc. as well as Cycling West/Cycling Utah. He also writes frequently on environmental issues and beer, among other topics. Weather permitting, you'll find him most weekends and some summer evenings astride a bicycle in a park. He is also a charter member of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

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