Cycling Lanes; In the most comprehensive look at bicycle and road safety to date, researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico discover that it’s not the cyclists, but the infrastructure built for them, that is making roads safer for everyone. Bicycling seems inherently dangerous on its own,” said study co-author Wesley Marshall, Ph.D., PE, assistant professor in the College of Engineering, Design and Computing at CU Denver.
So it would seem that a city with a lot of bicycling is more dangerous, but the opposite is true. Building safe facilities for cyclists turn out to be one of the biggest factors in road safety for everyone. The study publish in the Journal of Transport & Health found that bike facilities act as “calming” mechanisms on traffic, slowing cars and reducing fatalities. The effect is similar to the effect of grid blocks find in cities with higher intersection density.
Bike lanes double each year
Researchers look through 13 years of data from 12 large U.S. cities with high-bicycling mode shares, including Denver, Dallas, Portland, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo. During those years, the United States saw a 51% increase in bicycling to work and the number of protect bike lanes double each year starting in 2009. In a longitudinal study, the researchers investigate over 17,000 fatalities and 77,000 severe injuries.
Originally, researchers believe that more bike lanes; also the increase in cyclists would lead to a “safety-in-numbers” effect: the more cyclists on the road, the more likely drivers slow down and be aware of their surroundings. Instead, they found that safer cities aren’t due to the increase in cyclists; but the infrastructure built for them specifically; so separate and protected bike lanes. They find that bicycling infrastructure is significantly; so with fewer fatalities and better road-safety outcomes.
Portland, Ore., saw the biggest increase. Between 1990 and 2010, city’s bicycle mode share increase from 1.2% to 6%; over the same period, the road fatality rate drop by 75%. With add bike lanes, fatal crash rates drop in Seattle (-60.6%), San Francisco (-49.3%), Denver (-40.3%) and Chicago (-38.2%), among others.
Cycling Everyone’s safety
The U.S. is killing 40,000 people a year on roads, and they treat it as the cost of doing business, Marshall said. A lot of the existing research focuses on bicycle safety; with this study, They’re interest in everyone’s safety. Eliminating fatalities is the goal of Vision Zero cities like Denver. To reduce deaths, cities need more evidence base research to help them make better policy decisions.
Focusing on fatalities not crashes is important, said Marshall. Over the years, my research has found that safer cities have fewer fatalities but more fender benders. The study co author is Nicholas Ferenchak, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at the University of New Mexico. Ferenchak studied under Marshall and receive his doctoral degree from CU Denver.
When they believe it was the old safety-in-numbers concept; so that meant they had to figure out how to get more people on bicycles to make a city safer, Ferenchak said. That’s not easy. The 12 cities include in this research are Oklahoma City, Memphis, Kansas City, Mo., Dallas, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Portland. As this study focuses on larger cities, the results are not generalizable to smaller cities.