New infrastructure ideas like protected bike lanes have been gaining ground all over the world. Right here in California, many recently voted to add a large amount of new infrastructure for cyclists in multiple major cities. How do factors like protected lanes really affect overall bicycle safety numbers though? Let’s look and see.
What are Protected Bike Lanes?
A protected bike lane is just what it sounds like. It’s a designated lane for cyclists, with protection to keep motorists from entering. Arguably, these are much safer than normal bike lanes, because they do not rely on drivers’ good judgment to keep cyclists safe.
Protected lanes first became popular in Europe, but they are now picking up traction in the United States as some cities are taking cycling more seriously as a transportation alternative.
Do These Protections Really Save Lives?
Building bike accommodations seems to make a huge difference. A study by Oregon State University followed bike-friendly American cities as they added factors such as protected bike lanes, and the results were even more impressive than expected. Portland reduced its fatal bicycle injury rate by 72 percent from 2000 to 2015. Minneapolis saw a spike in the number of cyclists, but still lowered injury numbers by 79 percent. In fact, all ten cities in the study saw an increase in the number of cyclists but a decrease in the number of injuries.
These protections could not come at a better time either. Issues such as distracted driving have caused the number of car accidents to rise in the United States. It is difficult to rely on drivers to do the right thing when it comes to sharing the road. While educating drivers, and working to curb these issues is certainly part of the solution, it might also be wise to build physical protections to keep riders safe.
What do you think about protected bike lanes? Do you think they will become more popular in Southern California? How can we convince more communities to make the investment?