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Do Bikes Slow Down Car Traffic?

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Bicyclist in Street
Cyclists usually don’t slow traffic down significantly, as the latest research supports
Photo: Pixabay

If you’ve ever wondered if cyclists slow down car traffic, you’re not alone. Here’s an overview of some of the latest research about the effect cyclists have on traffic flow and speed.

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Do bike lanes impact traffic volume and speed?

According to a study published last summer in Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, car traffic speed varied by 1 mph or less on low-speed, low-volume roads when cyclists were using them. It’s worth pointing out that this study took place in one of America’s most congested areas to drive in: Portland, Oregon.

Two similar studies conducted in Minneapolis and Brooklyn demonstrated that bike lanes don’t slow traffic significantly if they’re installed on the right streets (i.e. streets that are functioning well under capacity). The only time that noticeably slower traffic occurred was when city planners put bike lanes on roads that were near full capacity during peak travel hours, as FiveThirtyEight contributors Gretchen and Aaron Johnson articulate.

The Brooklyn study had a few other interesting findings worth noting. When the city added a bike lane on Prospect Park West, the number of cyclists on roads increased. But the number of cyclists riding on the sidewalk and the number of injury-causing collisions decreased. Researchers also observed another positive side effect of implementing this bike lane: fewer speeding cars.

cyclist walking his bike in a bike lane on a busy city street.
Cycling is great for the eco-conscious…as well as those who are socially distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic
Photo: Rudy and Peter Skitterians via Pixabay

A foreshadowing of increased cyclist traffic

In light of the growing body of research supporting bike lanes and their associated benefits, it will be interesting to watch which cities adopt bike lanes in the years to come. The COVID-19 pandemic is another factor that’s currently impacting bike lane trends and the volume of cyclists on the road. With the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering on as new strains emerge, more cities around the world are starting to add bike lanes as a socially distanced alternative to public transit, as the People Powered Movement team shares.

Get the scoop on another study that showed a huge decrease in road fatalities when 12 major cities installed bike lanes. Then arm yourself with these tips for sharing the road safely with cyclists.

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