With Summer, in theory, about to kick off here in Wisconsin, we're seeing a lot more bikers on the roads. Whether you bike to work, school or just for fun, you deserve to be safe. Bike lanes are one of the best roadway features we have to ensure that.
There has been some debate nationally about whether bicycle lanes are worth the time and effort. Fortunately, there is ample evidence to support the argument that bicycle lanes are cost-effective, promote cycling and help protect bicyclists from the many roadway hazards posed by motor vehicles.
Bike lanes allow the road to carry a varying volume of bicyclists with varying levels of separation from traffic, adapted to the context and character of the street. Some other reasons why bicyclists benefit from bike lanes:
They inspire more riders. Many cities have discovered that when they put the infrastructure in place, it encourages participation. For example, Los Angeles reported a 52 percent increase in the number of cyclists – including a 250 percent increase in female cyclists – in a single year after installing a bicycle lane on Spring Street. In New York City, officials say the number of those who commute to work on bikes doubled once it introduced a series of bike-friendly initiatives, which included the installation of bike lanes at several key sections of the city.
They boost economic well-being. This is true for commercial as well as residential locations. For example, in an assessment of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail in Indiana, it was reported that property values within one block of a protected bike lane feature soared 148 percent after the trail was completed. Another study looked at how bike lanes affected businesses in Manhattan. Those businesses with bike lanes saw sales increase by 50 percent just a few years after installation. Portland reported similar results.
They are safer – for bicyclists and drivers. First, let’s talk about those on bikes. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed the installation of bike lanes in several neighborhoods resulted in a 50 percent drop in the rate of bicycle injuries. Protected bike lanes, which involve a physical barrier between bikes and cars, were associated with a 90 percent reduction in cycling injury rates. Bike lanes are also safer for motorists, as research has shown drivers tend to overcorrect when they realize they are getting to close to a cyclist. That puts the driver at risk of a collision with another vehicle. Bike lanes clearly define the space for everyone.
Cycling is exponentially better for the environment, our health and our communities than motor vehicle traffic. The only wild card is our safety. When leaders take charge and improve the infrastructure that makes safety a reality, we all benefit.