NYC Government Study: Protected Bike Lanes Mean Fewer Injuries, Economic Vitality and Faster Car Travel Times

Protected bike lanes are beneficial for cyclists, pedestrians and even drivers


Bike lanes and floating parking on Prospect Park West

Few things will have city drivers up in arms quicker than the idea of losing even the tiniest bit of road space to cyclists, but a new report from the New York City Department of Transportation suggests their fury may be misguided.

The recently released report gauges what effect protected bike lanes have had on Manhattan—specifically how the lanes have impacted safety, mobility and the hyper-local economy. The Department of Transportation has installed more than 30 miles of protected lanes since 2007 and through analyzing the routes with enough “after” data (at least three years worth), they can finally say what effect the protected lanes have had.

The big news for drivers: not only were there no significant increases in travel times for cars, but some of the redesigned roads even saw travel times improve. That’s right, redesigning to include a bike lane made at least one section much easier and quicker for drivers to navigate.

How is that possible? The first significant point is that in most spots where they added a bike lane, drivers didn’t lose any car lanes; the lanes were just narrowed (see the below diagram), and the narrower lanes can accommodate just as much traffic. The second major improvement in the redesign was the pocket lane for left hand turns. The pocket lane is a separate area where drivers can wait to turn left without holding up traffic—after installing a protected bike lane, there was room to include a pocket lane.

We’ve written before about other city data on bike lanes and the conclusion of that data was very similar. Essentially, when installed on the right streets, bike lanes have little to no negative impact on car traffic. 

Related: Bike Lanes Don’t Cause Traffic?

In addition to the good news for drivers, the NYC report went on to say that there is good news for retailers too. The streets with protected bike lanes saw a greater increase in retail sales when compared to similar streets with no protected lane.

Finally—less shocking but certainly most important—injuries in both cyclists and pedestrians were significantly lower on streets with protected bike lanes. Crashes with injuries were reduced by 17 percent, pedestrian injuries are down 22 percent and cyclists are far less likely to experience serious injuries on these streets.

So, drivers, get used to seeing those pesky cyclists out on your city streets in growing numbers and rest assured that those protected lanes are likely helpful to you, as well.

Both in-text graphics are courtesy of the NYC DOT.

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