A new study confirms what urban cyclists already know—protected bike lanes are the best idea since the invention of the bike.
Using a combination of video data, numerical data and surveys in five major U.S. cities, researchers found that protected bike lanes improve safety and comfort for both cyclists and drivers, they increase the number of cyclists and may provide economic benefits.
The study found that within one year of installing the protected bike lanes, ridership was up by at least 21 percent. Two of the locations in the study saw a more than 100 percent increase in riders. The researchers point out that, while some of the volume is due to new riders, a portion of the volume can be attributed to people who were already riding on nearby city streets, but chose to switch to the protected route after the upgrade. Either way, this data means that cyclists prefer, often strongly, routes with protected lanes.
Researchers also surveyed cyclists to determine their preferred configuration.
According to drivers polled, overall 37 percent said that they thought protected lanes made driving safer. 30 percent of all drivers said there was no change, 26 said the protected lanes made driving less safe and 7 percent had no opinion. When you can clearly separate cyclists and drivers, there are fewer accidents.
The researchers said there were no accidents or “near accidents” recorded in the 144 hours of video. They did note that there was still some “conflict” in intersections.
The data on economic activity in the area was based on a survey of cyclists and residents. On average, 20 percent of cyclists said they spent more money at local shops along the route as a result of the protected bike lanes. The same survey of residents found a very slight increase in money spent at local businesses.
The study called “Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S.” was released at the beginning of June after more than a year of research. The first of it’s kind to measure the effectiveness and impact of protected bike lanes in the U.S., the study analyzed information from five major cities. They selected the following cities to get a variety of population sizes, cycling rates, cultures and climates. Austin, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco, Calif and Washington, District of Colombia each participated in the “Green Lane Project,” sponsored by People for Bikes and were the cities used for data collection in the study.