More Cycling, Lowered Risk

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Nacto Study: Expanding Cycle Infrastructure Means More Cyclists, Less Risk
Nacto Study: Expanding Cycle Infrastructure Means More Cyclists, Less Risk

It’s often been claimed, that the more cyclists there are, the more visible we all become, and therefore the safer we are.

Some proof of this has come from NACTO, which is the National Association of City Transport Officials in 46 major North American cities, which was formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights and practices, as well as cooperatively approaching national transportation issues; the 46 include such major cities as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington DC; Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are affiliated.

NACTO analysed seven US cities and have just published their results in their third Equity Practitioners’ Paper: it looks at the relationship between building bike lanes and bike safety, and finds that municipal policies that encourage cycling, such as introducing large-scale bike share programs, make it safer for everyone on a bike.

In 5 of the 7 cities, the number of cyclists killed or severely injured declined from 2007 to 2014, even though bike ridership increased. Even in the cities where the numbers killed or injured grew, the rate was slower than the increase in cycling. NACTO concludes that there is a decline in risk at the same time that bike ridership in the surveyed cities has more than doubled.

We often hear the slogan, “build it and they will come”. NACTO confirms it, with studies from North American cities confirming that adding protected bike lanes significantly increases bike ridership on those streets, with rates ranging from 21% to a massive 171%.

nacto infographic

Bike share systems should be matched with extensive protected bike lane networks to encourage ridership and increase safety. People on bike share bikes make up a disproportionate number of the riders on protected lanes, and stations adjacent to bike lanes are busier than ones that are not. For bike share to be successful, people need to feel comfortable riding.

Bike share programs increase the visibility of cyclists, making riding safer for everyone. The risk of a bicyclist being struck by a motorist declines as the number of people biking increases. Appropriately scaled bike share systems can dramatically increase the total number of people on bikes in a city and help build political momentum for bike lanes.

Mandatory adult helmet laws reduce bike ridership and don’t increase safety. Mandatory adult helmet laws have reduced bike ridership in Sydney, and hampered bike share ridership efforts in Melbourne and Seattle. In addition to evidence that mandatory adult helmet laws do not increase overall bike safety, reports from across the U.S. suggest that these laws are disproportionately enforced against people of colour, further discouraging them from riding.

Seleta Reynolds, General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and NACTO President. “Each new facility we put down multiplies our investment in our city streets. High-quality bike lanes attract riders and are essential to increased safety for everyone.”

“People want and need safe places to walk and bike, and safe ways to get to their jobs or schools,” said Carniesha Kwashie of the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia and the Grant Manager of the Better Bike Share Partnership. “This analysis by NACTO highlights the fundamental fact that building safe streets underscores all approaches to building a more equitable city and society.”

“As we launch BIKETOWN, we do so knowing that we have built a strong foundation for a successful system: a large network of high-quality bike lanes,” said Leah Treat, Commissioner of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Our safety record, like that of our peer cities, is the result of hard work and focus and the City of Portland is proudto be recognized as a leader.”

“Not only is building better bike lanes and supporting them with long-term community engagement essential for safety, it’s also an important step on the path to a more equitable bike infrastructure,” said Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Coalition. “Cities should use NACTO’s latest research to double-down on building high-quality bike facilities, narrowing the safety gap for our historically neglected and most vulnerable road users.”

“Motivate and the hundreds of thousands of people who ride our bike share systems each year value having safe places to ride,” said Jay Walder, President & CEO of Motivate. “From New York to Portland and in between, the cities where we operate have invested in building more safe bike infrastructure and we are glad that our bike share systems can help contribute to safety in numbers as well.”

“NACTO’s analysis confirms our experiences helping cities build protected bike lanes through our Green Lane Project,” said Martha Roskowski, Vice President of Local Innovation at PeopleForBikes. “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.”

Admittedly these are US cities and their results, but they mirror studies carried out here in Europe.



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