Bike Sharing + Protected Bike Lanes = More Cycling, Reduced Risk

How can cities get more people using bikes for transportation, while also reducing the risk of injuries or death? It turns out that it might not really be that complicated, and that by combining bike sharing systems with protected bike lanes, cities can boost bike transportation rates and increase bicycle safety, especially for low-income and minority communities.

A new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), titled Equitable Bike Share Means Building Better Places for People to Ride, “looks at the relationship between building bike lanes and bike safety” through an analysis of seven US cities and some in-house research, and suggests that protected bike lanes and progressive municipal policies that encourage bicycling can have a big influence on both safety and overall ridership.

“NACTO’s new analysis of seven major cities across the U.S. shows that, as cities build more bike lanes, the number of cyclists on the street increases, and the individual risk of a cyclist being killed or severely injured drops, often dramatically. The investment in bike lanes spurs additional cycling, increasing visibility and further reducing risk for all cyclists.”

In the report, which covers cycling in Chicago, Minneapolis, NYC, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), San Francisco, and Washington D.C., NACTO found that in five out of seven of the cities, as more bike lanes were built, and the number of cyclists increased, the risk of an individual cyclist “being killed or severely injured” dropped (from 2007 — 2014). And in the cities where the number of cyclists severely injured or killed went up, it did so at a slower rate than the overall increase of cycling there.

The report also found that this decreased cycling risk is “especially important for low-income riders and riders of color,” because some 49% of riders who bike to work earn less than $25,000 annually, and with Black and Hispanic riders having fatality rates 30% and 23% higher (respectively) than white cyclists, building “extensive protected bike lane networks” will benefit those groups, which are at higher risk.

“NACTO’s analysis confirms our experiences helping cities build protected bike lanes through our Green Lane Project. People of all ages and abilities, genders, ethnicities, and incomes show up when cities create safe and comfortable places to ride. By connecting the dots between better infrastructure, bike share, safety, and better communities, NACTO has created a valuable resource for cities and supporters everywhere.” – Martha Roskowski, Vice President of Local Innovation at PeopleForBikes


Other findings in the report:

  • Adding protected bike lanes “significantly” increases ridership, with city cycling rates increasing anywhere from 21% to 171% because of those additions.
  • Many people (60% of those surveyed) are “interested but concerned” about cycling, and 80% would be willing to ride their bikes on city streets with protected or separated bike lanes.
  • An increase in the visibility of cyclists can come from bike share programs, which in turn makes cycling safer for everyone, and “appropriately scaled bike share systems” can increase the overall number of cyclists in a city “dramatically” and help build the necessary momentum for building more bike lanes.
  • Mandatory helmet laws for adults don’t increase safety, and may reduce bike ridership, including slowing the adoption of bike share systems.
  • People riding bike sharing bikes “make up a disproportionate number of riders in protected lanes” and that for bike share systems to be more successful, there need to be more “higher-comfort facilities” (protected bike lanes) in order to help people feel comfortable with their safety and risk level while riding.

The report offers case studies and lessons learned from cities with successful bike share programs and good bike infrastructure, and is available for download from NACTO: Equitable Bike Share Means Building Better Places for People to Ride (PDF)

Via People For Bikes.

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