Riding a Bike in the USA is Getting Safer

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Riding a bicycle is getting safer in American cities thanks to improvements in infrastructure. Usually the USA is associated with being the land of the car (and it still is very car-focussed) so it’s really nice to see that a sustainable and friendly form of transportation is getting the attention it needs. Over the last decade more bike lanes and cycle-friendly construction has made the streets safer for everybody while improving local economies – and above all protecting people from cars.

Researchers examined 10 cities that have been “especially successful at improving cycling safety and increasing cycling levels by greatly expanding their cycling infrastructure.” The above table shows recent changes in bike network growth, cycling rates, and crash and injury rates for cyclists in those cities. Minneapolis, Portland and New York City have seen the largest drop in injury and fatality rates among this group.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Bike Lanes Save Lives of Non-Cyclists

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Cities can improve the health and well being of everyone by simply adding bike lanes. That’s right, drivers not only benefit from faster traffic flow they also benefit from increased health when cities install bike lanes. As Bloomberg reports, cities around the world are catching on and adding bike lanes to benefit all citizens.

There’s math to show how cost-effective the strategy could be for public health. When New York spent about $8 million in 2015 on bike lane expansion, the cost per additional “quality-adjusted life year,” or QALY, was about $1,300, according to the Mailman paper.
A QALY, pronounced “qually,” is a standard measure of cost-benefit analysis. It takes into account the number of people who benefit from an intervention, how many years of extra life they can expect to get, and how healthy they will be during the extra years.
As it turns out, when you apply this to bike lanes, it makes them more economical per added QALY than, say, kidney dialysis, which costs over $100,000 per QALY—although not quite as cost-effective as standard vaccines, which cost in the low hundreds of dollars per QALY, Mohit said.

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Bicycling is the Safest Form of Transportation

In Toronto, the car rules the road so much so that the city is fine with non-driver (that’s everyone) deaths, and the city won’t do much to stop drivers from killing. Sadly, Toronto isn’t a unique case. In far too many places bicycling infrastructure is an afterthought that plays second fiddle to cars. Despite this lack of support for safety, riding a bike is still the least dangerous way to get around.

Bicycling is so safe that you can actually lengthen your lifetime by riding! Mr Money Moustache ran the numbers and found out that statistically no matter where you live you’ll live longer by riding a bike! So get out there and get on a bike and remember the more people out there commuting via bicycle the safer the streets!

Riding a bike is not more dangerous than driving a car. In fact, it is much, much safer:

Under even the most pessimistic of assumptions:

  • Net effect of driving a car at 65mph for one hour: Dying 20 minutes sooner. (18 seconds of life lost per mile)
  • Net effect of riding a bike at 12mph for one hour: Living 2 hours and 36 minutes longer (about 13 minutes of life gained per mile)

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Drivers Need to Learn to Share

Bicycles are an amazingly fast way to get around cities and countries, as a cyclist I often roll past cars idling in bumper to bumper traffic. The cars (and their single occupants) aren’t getting anywhere anytime soon yet drivers as a group demand more and more infrastructure when really they should learn to share.

In the Globe and Mail, it’s argued that drivers shouldn’t be so selfish and support things like public transit, bike lanes, and other initiatives that actually help people get around. The car as an individual transportation solution needs to go away.

The truth is there’s no immediate solution to traffic congestion. We can wait for trillion-dollar infrastructure projects to get completed. We can wait for a new subway line or bike lane. We can wait for autonomous cars to make better use of the available road space. But until then, we’re going to have to learn to better share the space we’ve got.

Roads are for moving cars as quickly as possible. Pedestrians are a danger and cyclists are barely tolerated. But what if, as drivers, we changed the way we thought about roads? If they’re public space – a quarter of Toronto’s total area – then shouldn’t they be for moving as many people as fast as possible? Sometimes that will mean prioritizing automobiles. Sometimes that will mean giving up a lane to cyclists. Sometimes that will mean giving up a lane to buses.

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Supporting Bicycles is a Good Idea for Cities

Torontoist is a blog focused on, you guessed it, Toronto and they recently ran a series of posts about bike lanes. It’s not all about Toronto as they pull data from New York and tout Strasbourg as an inspiration that Toronto ought to follow.

The success of cycling infrastructure in Strasbourg is a result of partnerships between the city and other transportation agencies. Parcus, the city’s arms-length parking authority, manages parking lots throughout Strasbourg and incorporates bike parking as part of its facilities. Parcus provides free, supervised bike parking at five different parking lots across the city. Parking attendants are even equipped with repair kits and bike pumps.

In another recent post, Torontoist provides a look at three myths about bike lanes that people (for some reason) believe. The first myth is that bike lanes block people from commuting from the suburbs. The response to the myth is pretty great:

The myth here is that cycling infrastructure will cause congestion to the point of excessive traffic delays. Bike lanes don’t always add to traffic congestion, and really need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Except for rush hour, Bloor Street is already occupied by parking spaces on either side of the road, and, in turn, narrows a four-lane street down to two lanes. Bike lanes will remove parking spaces, sure, but in turn will leave the two-lane situation in the same condition it was prior to the installation of the bike lanes. If bike lanes do in fact cause minor inconveniences, these inconveniences are nothing in comparison to on-street parking used practically around the clock. Here’s an 808 page book on why that’s bad public policy.

Lastly, the site outlined why bicycle infrastructure is part of a larger movement to make streets good for all commuters. Having a multimodal approach to urban transportation is always a good form of planning rather than a monolithic approach focused on one mode of getting around.

The study of the improvements made to Richmond and Adelaide streets, which included the addition of a cycle track separated from vehicle traffic by flexi-posts and planter boxes, concluded that the upgrades resulted in an increased number of cyclists using the roadways and reduced travel times for drivers. During off-peak hours, a motorist’s trip was 30 per cent faster after the cycle track was installed and 12 per cent faster during peak hours.

In the study, both cyclists and drivers reported that they felt safer using the street once it had been upgraded. The report did not, however, mention how incorrect usage of the roadway, such as drivers and delivery trucks parking in the bike lane, can render it less safe since cyclists usually have to merge with traffic.