With extravagant cycling apparel, Cycle2Work schemes and bike rental initiatives encouraging people to roll to work, the number of urban cyclists is growing by the day – in London, some 540,000 trips are made per day on two-wheels. That’s twice as many as in 2010! But for those who haven’t ridden a bike since the training-wheel days, the idea of cycing through rush-hour traffic sends them running… to the tube.
But is cycling really THAT dangerous? Many studies show that you are more likely to be injured as a pedestrian than on your bike, so how do we change this perception. What can be done to get more people onto their bikes, creating a healthier, happier city?
But innovative technology will stamp out our fears, because there is a solution: protected bike lanes. We’re talking about more than just a bit of blue paint splashed on the floor by Boris and his gang. Protected bike lanes are physically separated from the traffic-riddled roads by a barrier or curb, and unlike standard bike lanes, they cannot be infiltrated by aggressive cabs or motorbike users.
While many factors could have shaped these results, an additional survey was carried out for extra measure – cyclists were asked ‘Before the new facility was built, how would you have made this trip?’. Of the 2,283 surveyed, 10% of them said they would have usually walked, taken public transport or driven before the lane hadn’t been built. And to top that off, another 1% said they wouldn’t have actually taken the trip at all!
Using video-recording, a recent study carried out by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities on eight new protected bike lanes in San Francisco, Washington DC, Austin, Portland and Chicago shows that these lanes not only decreased the number of accidents, but they actually encouraged new bikers to test the tarmac on two wheels. Bike traffic increased dramatically on all 8 streets after the lanes were installed – some up to 171%.
Aside from the evident health and safety benefits of these lanes, residents also felt that these urban improvements significantly impacted the liveability of their local area. 53% of people commented that the lanes made their streets more usable for all parties, and rather than using the roadside for parking spaces, they suggested that utilising this space for cyclists made their neighbourhoods more desirable. This was also reflected in the 91% of residents who supported segregating bikes from cars, and in the 76% who advocate more bike lanes since experiencing the benefits in their own neighbourhoods.