Protected Bike Lanes Aren’t Just Safer, They Can Also Increase Cycling

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

Not all bike lanes are created equal. A line in the pavement dividing cars from cyclists is nice, but it doesn’t provide nearly the comfort of a protected bike lane — a track separated from vehicle traffic by a row of parked cars, or a curb, or at least a line of flexible posts. Cyclists who use protected lanes say they feel safer, and some studies show they truly are safer, with their risk of injury cut in half.

That’s great for committed riders and public health more broadly. But what about city residents who don’t already ride a bike, perhaps due to safety fears? After all, it stands to reason that cities invest in bike infrastructure not just to secure the existing rider population, but to expand it. So is the assurance of a protected bike lane enough to make a cyclist of those who might otherwise choose another transportation mode?

New research suggests that, to a modest extent, the answer is yes. Today a study team led by Christopher Monsere of Portland State University released a thorough analysis of new protected bike lanes in five major U.S. cities. The researchers videotaped the new lanes, conducted local surveys, and gathered data on cycling trends to get a full picture of life in these new corridors — comparing what they found to rider habits before the protected lanes were installed. They found that ridership increased anywhere from 21 to 171 percent, with about 10 percent of new riders drawn from other modes.

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