A study that looked at 13 years of traffic data has found that protected bicycle lanes make roads significantly safer for cyclists — and also for motorists and pedestrians.
“Despite bicycling being considered 10 times more dangerous than driving, the evidence suggests that high-bicycling-mode-share cities are not only safer for bicyclists but for all road users,” according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Transport & Health.
As an example, the US city where commuters are most reliant on cycling — Davis, California — has a road fatality rate of 2.3 per 100,000 residents, which is five times less than the national average.
“It is easiest to discount Davis as an anomaly,” the study reads. “Yet, Davis is not alone.”
In Portland, Oregon, the share of bicycles in the transport mix rose from 1.2% to 6% between 1990 and 2010. Over the same period, the overall road fatality rate fell by 75%.
New York City, meanwhile, has ramped up investments in cycling infrastructure in recent years, and this has pushed traffic fatality rates to the lowest numbers on record.
The study considered accident data from 12 large US cities, and concluded that better safety outcomes were at least partly linked to a greater prevalence of cycling facilities — particularly protected and separated bike lanes.
Cities with dedicated bike lanes had 44% fewer deaths and 50% fewer serious injuries than the average American city, partly because that infrastructure tended to slow traffic down slightly.
Conversely, however, the researchers found that painted bike lanes actually make roads less safe for all users.