Bicycling Getting Much Safer
Addition of protected bike lanes in cities reduces crashes, fatalities. Is Milwaukee next?
American cities still have a long way to go before they’re considered safe for people of all ages and abilities to bike. But many of them have made a lot of progress recently, especially the ones building protected bike lanes.
That’s the takeaway of a recent data project featured in the American Journal of Public Health that examines crash and injury rates for cyclists in 10 American cities.
Researchers examined 10 cities that have been “especially successful at improving cycling safety and increasing cycling levels by greatly expanding their cycling infrastructure.” The above table shows recent changes in bike network growth, cycling rates, and crash and injury rates for cyclists in those cities. Minneapolis, Portland and New York City have seen the largest drop in injury and fatality rates among this group.
The change in bike trips in each city was determined using Census data about the number of bike commuters in a city. The authors assumed each bike commute accounted two trips per day and that these trips represented one-fifth of total bike trips. The assumption was based on the most recent National Household Travel Survey, which found that about one in five bike trips is work related.
Citing previous work by Kay Teschke, Anne Lusk, and other researchers, authors John Pucher and Ralph Buehler say it’s not just the volume of bike infrastructure that matters, it’s the quality as well.
While American cities have made improvements to cycling safety, they have a long way to go to be truly safe. Currently, the fatality rate for cyclists in the United States is almost five times as high as counties like Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, which have more robust bike infrastructure. U.S. cities need to continue to expand bike infrastructure, especially protected bike lanes, say Pucher and Buehler recommend, if they’re going to keep on reducing cycling deaths.
While Milwaukee has made many improvements to accommodate bikes, it has been slow to embrace protected bike lanes, and currently has only one, on Bay Street. However, as Urban Milwaukee has previously reported, a city program to resurface 60 miles of city streets will also create bike lanes on many of those roads. The 60 miles is a significant expansion of bike infrastructure, though protected lanes would have a significantly larger impact on safety.
Story by Angie Schmitt with additions by Urban Milwaukee. A version of this story originally ran on Streetsblog. Angie Schmitt is a newspaper reporter-turned planner/advocate who manages the Streetsblog Network from glamorous Cleveland, Ohio. She also writes about urban issues particular to the industrial Midwest at Rustwire.com.
Correction: The 60 miles of city streets will be getting bike lanes, not protected bike lanes.