8 Ways to Make Our Cities Bike-Friendly

Biking in cities can be extremely efficient, healthy and rewarding. Unfortunately, it can also be intimidating, stressful and dangerous.

When cities provide a safe and welcoming environment for cyclists, they can begin a powerful virtuous circle. As more people give up driving in favor of riding bike, biking can become safer. With fewer cars are the road, there is less risk of a harmful collision. And with more bikes on the road, drivers get more used to navigating around and anticipating the paths of cyclists.

While pedestrians sometimes complain about bikers, automobiles are clearly the most dangerous vehicles on the road. More bikes and fewer cars would make for a better world for pedestrians. Indeed, the research strongly suggests that the more walkers and cyclists a city has, the safer it’s walkers and cyclists are. Cause and effect here are clearly tangled up, but that’s what we would expect if the relationship is a virtuous circle.

In addition to being safer in raw terms of fewer road accidents, reducing the number of cars on the road clearly has additional health and environmental impacts. What’s more, an increase in cycling and walking can lead to significant health benefits for a city. A reduced need for parking can free up valuable city real estate, and streets would certainly be much more pleasant with less honking and engine noise.

With the myriad benefits in mind, here are eight ways to make our cities more bike-friendly:

1. Bike Lanes

Most obviously, we can improve safety for cyclists by providing them with dedicated bike lanes. As discussed previously on Care2, the best way to do this is with protected bike lanes, which place a physical barrier between bikes and the rest of traffic. Early research suggests this can induce a significant number of people to switch from other modes of transportation to bike use.

While protected bike lanes will obvious be more costly than merely painted bike lanes, barriers can be placed strategically on steers where they are most needed. If protected bike lanes were placed on intimidating major roadways, it might make bike-based commuting a much more appealing option.

2. Bus Lanes

Dedicated bus lanes might not seem particularly bike-friendly, but they can play a valuable role if they’re implemented as part of a multifaceted plan to increase road safety. Dedicated bus lanes reduce the efficiency of travel by personal automobile, while increasing the efficiency and attractiveness of public bus travel. This could reduce the overall number of vehicles on the road which should, in addition to other sensible strategies, increase the safety of cyclists.

3. Congestion Pricing

Charging drivers higher rates for using roads during peak hours (a.k.a. congestion pricing) may benefit cyclists similarly by reducing the number of cars on the road. If more people chooses to bike rather than pay the high fees for driving, this can play into the virtuous circle mentioned above. Any money earned by the city from congestion pricing could be used for improving bike-friendly infrastructure.

4. Charge more for street parking

Many cities offer far too much free or inexpensive parking on city streets. This is essentially a subsidy from the city to car owners, which makes driving a more lucrative option. Charging market rates for parking, or reducing the amount of parking spaces offered by the city, would make driving more expensive and could push more people to use alternative means of transportation.

As economist Donald Shoup showed, much of the traffic in city streets is the result of drivers looking for street parking. If people didn’t expect to get parking essentially for free, they would either pay the high cost of private parking lots, or they wouldn’t drive in the first place.

5. Add more bike racks

Instead of subsidizing parking for automobiles, why not give cyclists more places to lock up their bikes? This is a no-brainer, and any costs incurred by a plan to install additional bike racks around the city could be offset by the aforementioned market pricing of street parking. Our historical preference of subsidizing parking for automobiles over bike racks is a national shame.

6. Allow the Idaho Stop

The “Idaho Stop,” named for the long-time law in Idaho, lets cyclists obey slightly different rules than cars at traffic lights and stop signs. Because cyclists are less dangerous and have a greater ability to see and hear their surroundings on the road than drivers, advocates of the Idaho stop think cyclists should treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs.

Many cyclists already do this, and it allows for much more efficient riding. (Some, however, ignore the signs completely, which is clearly unsafe.) If our intent is to make biking as appealing as possible, which again can increase total ridership and overall safety, we should be comfortable allowing the Idaho Stop.

7. Bike Sharing

Bike sharing programs, such as Citi Bike, can also play a valuable role in fostering a bike-friendly city. These programs allow anyone to rent rides on standardized bicycles to and from hubs placed around the cities. They can be used by city residents on a causal basis or as a trial-run for owning a bike. Visitors also use them for cheap and convenient travel around the city.

Bike sharing programs serve as a strong signal that a city welcomes cyclists and play their part in increasing bike riding.

8. Car Sharing

While the goal should be to discourage overall car use, cars obviously do serve some important purposes. Recognizing this, it’s important that cities promote the growing trend of a variety of car sharing programs. Because these programs bring some of the benefits of car owning to non-car owners, they decrease the opportunity costs of not owning a car. Fewer people owning cars will almost certain lead to fewer people driving cars, allowing more space on the streets for bikes.

Some might think the above policies are coercive and intrusive to city life, or that these ideas would be unfair to car owners. But the status quo heavily favors car owning and driving, so much so that we don’t even notice the extent to which specific policy decisions have promoted this costly method of travel. Since the infrastructure that supports the reign of the automobile is not a natural feature of cities and requires constant upkeep, it’s worth rethinking the ways we design and encourage travel within our cities.

Photo Credit: Dustin Jensen

62 comments

Ujivenelson Ujivenelson
Ujivenelson Ujivenelsonabout a year ago

Awe-inspiring blogs, I love reading your articles. http://motorcycleroom.com

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Tom S.
Past Member 1 years ago

I don’t suppose many of websites give this kind of information. Jimmy

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted

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Angela AWAY
Angela K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Thomas Clother
Thomas Clother2 years ago

9. Encourage employers to allow employees who commute by bike to shower at their place of employment before commencing their shift, also drying rooms at workplaces for wet riding gear would make committing to biking to and from work more attractive.

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Miriam O.

Thank you for sharing

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Magdalena C.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thank you!

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Ricky T.
Ricky T2 years ago

As I've said before on these posts about cycling, I've been to places like Amsterdam, even parts of China where they see cycling as a top priority in the nations biking, and therefore introduce an intricate system. And most places in the west, roads were built primarily for the motorist despite bikes being more common (at that time). What we need, for benefit of our health too, is investment in new safe cycle lanes, and that doesn't necessarily mean they align with roads, where it already feels like 'Russian roulette' at times.

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