How Bike Friendly is Your City?
Cycling has become increasingly popular in the United States as people search for alternative ways to commute, reduce their carbon footprint and get a little exercise. Since 2000, there has been a 62 percent surge in bicycle commuting, which correlates with a 16 percent increase in cyclist fatalities.
The influx of cyclists and fatalities has city officials and cycling enthusiasts across the country looking for ways to increase safety to prevent accidents. Some cities have been making great strides to make the roads safer and educate both cyclists and drivers on the rules of the road.
How Cities Can Adjust to the Rise in Cyclists
There are several ways a city can respond to the growing number of cyclists on the road that will keep pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers safe. When rating cities on Bicycle Friendliness, The League of American Bicyclists looks at the following five categories:
- Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park (bike lanes, buffered lanes, expanded lanes, etc.).
- Education: Giving people of all ages and ability the skills and confidence to ride.
- Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling.
- Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users.
- Evaluation & Planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option.
Here are some examples of how cities have been responding:
New York’s Department of Transportation recently did a Safety Study on bike lanes and reported that streets with bike lanes have about 40 percent fewer crashes ending in death or serious injury. In response to this, the New York DOT has laid down more than 250 miles of new bike lanes.
They’ve also enacted laws that require working cyclists to wear lights, reflective vests and clothing that identify their employer. In order to promote and encourage the law, New York has implemented a Bicycle Ambassador Program that conducts safety training with business owners who employ cyclists.
New York is also currently pursuing a public bike share program to provide a low-cost transportation solution and help promote the increase of cyclists on the road. Other cities that have implemented bike share programs recently include Tampa, Orlando, and Phoenix.
D.C. is taking big steps to improve their bicycle infrastructure and safety. This includes a significant increase in the number of streets with dedicated bicycle facilities, the set-up of the country’s largest bike sharing system and the establishment of the first and only full-service bike station on the East Coast.
Richmond is another city trying to improve the infrastructure to make for safer streets. Richmond’s impetus to improve is the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, which will be held in September. The city has touted itself as bike-friendly for years with plenty of lane markings that remind drivers to share the road.
The city of Richmond has recently built a buffered bike lane that connects Northside to Downtown and is working to increase the number of shared lane markings, trails and bicycle boulevards.
These changes have not been widely accepted, however. The backlash comes from commuters who are worried about the increase in traffic due to the loss of driving lanes. The buffered bike lane that was installed reduced a four-lane street to two lanes. Richmonders have also expressed concern that the implementation of bicycle boulevards may reduce the amount of street parking in neighborhoods.
These are just some examples of cities taking action to make the roads safer for cyclists. When everyone is educated on laws and safety protocol, and proper infrastructure is in place to make it easier to “share the road”, everyone wins.
Check out our blog post on Safety Tips for Drivers and Cyclists to brush up on cycling laws.