5 Reasons We Need to Add More Bike Lanes

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally published on May 18, 2013. Enjoy!

With cycling advocacy at a particular high during National Bike Month, communities across the country are actively debating whether to add bicycle lanes to their roads. City councils ask, “Is it worth the money? Will it be too disruptive? Is it really any safer?” Thankfully, research has demonstrated a number of benefits to adopting bike lanes:

1. It inspires more people to ride bicycles

If you build it, they will come. Time and time again, cycling studies have shown that adding bike lanes motivates more people to get out and bike. New Orleans saw a 57% increase just six months after bike lanes were marked. Los Angeles also saw a 52% jump in cyclists on their new lanes. Meanwhile, New York City found it was able to double the number of people commuting by bicycle in just a few years after introducing a few cycling initiatives including bike lanes. In a country plagued by obesity, the health benefits of a population that rides bicycles should not be mitigated.

2. It stimulates the local economy

That same increased use also results in a boost to commerce. While communities often fight bike lanes out of concern that it will discourage vehicular traffic from coming to the stores, recent studies have shown that bicycle lanes have the opposite effect on sales. In Manhattan, streets that had bike lanes put in saw their business increase by nearly 50%. A business boom, particularly one of that size, can probably be attributed to a number of factors, but surely an increase in people in the area plays a big role. Similar results were found for businesses by bike lanes in Portland.

3. Its safer for cyclists

Accidents happen, but research illustrates that city streets with bike lanes reduce the rate of cyclist injury by 50%. For years, the conventional wisdom was that sharing the lane with vehicles made for safer cycling, but data supports that having a separate lanes significantly cuts down on the number of cyclist emergency room visits. In fact, protected bike lanes those with barriers dividing cyclists from vehicles cuts the injury rate by a whopping 90%.

4. Its safer for motorists

When sharing the road with cyclists, drivers tend to have a difficult time gauging how much space to allow. Occasionally, motorists will get too close to bikers and cause accidents that way. However, almost 90% of the time drivers overcorrect when they see a cyclist and drift into the adjacent lane, putting themselves at risk for an auto collision.A study in three Texas cities showed that when bike space is clearly marked by paint, drivers knew how much space to allow and were less than half as likely to subconsciously swerve into another lane of traffic.

5. It has a real impact on the environment

As people feel safer and the number of cyclists grow, this conversely alters the number of vehicles on the road. As National Geographic discusses, cycling does seriously lower one’s carbon footprint by not emitting pollution or burning fossil fuels.

In fact, short car trips do the most damage. An engine releases the worst pollution as it “warms up,” so if more people were to bike instead of drive for their closest trips, this would be a boon for the environment. Since the average cyclist isn’t inclined to bike more than a few miles anyway, bike lanes would certainly help to facilitate the green choice.

250 comments

federico bortoletto

Grazie per l'articolo.

Magdalenb B.
Magdalen B.7 days ago

Now if we can just get the ****ers to stay off the footpaths....

Patrice Z.
Patrice Z.8 days ago

Thanks for the article.

Philip Watling
Philip Watling8 days ago

Milton Keynes was built for a car, but they had the sense to not only add bus lanes, but also Redways - paths that run alongside the roads for walkers and cyclists. There is a network of bridleways too!

Michelle Spradley

Many cyclists could use a few traffic lessons. Bicycles are vehicles and you are supposed to follow the same rules of the road as other vehicles. Safe cycling to all!

Palestine Forever
.13 days ago

When I turned 60 I got a free bus pass. So i stopped using my bike and my blood pressure went up.
 Last Christmas I asked my son for a kick scooter - one that folds up so I can ride it somewhere and take the bus home. The weather hasn't been conducive until now, but now the skies are blue again I'm looking forward to becoming a latter-day speedy Gonzales and getting fit again. I've already made a customised shopping bag to attach to the front.

Nellie K Adaba
Nellie K Adaba13 days ago

True, and Europe is champion with Bike Lanes, especially Holland, my country Belgium has bike lanes trails. In the US, I only ride bikes in developed urban areas where you don't have to ride on the road, because I feel safer that way. I'll try to find bike lanes in NY to go bicycling. I don't feel safeon the road with cars while on a bike, I could hit them or they could hit me. I just want to bicycle for exercise and nothing else, not to go from one place to another.

Stephen B.
Stephen B.14 days ago

I live in Portland (OR) and gave up my car two years ago (equal parts saving the Planet and saving money). I don't know if I could have done so in other cities. I have a 9-mile commute to work. More than half is on separate bike trails, but the rest is on busy streets (with a separate bike lane). I'm not comfortable when an 18-wheeler is passing me, but I'm far enough away that I know I won't be "sucked in" by the backdraft.

In addition to excellent mass-transit, Portland has invested in Bike infrastructure in a big way. Other cities should look into "The City That Works."

Dave C.
Dave C.14 days ago

thanks

suzie c.
suzie c.15 days ago

Agree