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Study Claims Streets Are Safer With Separated Bike Lanes

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Bicyclist in Street
Photo: Pixabay

When cities invest in a physical infrastructure to protect cyclists, everyone on the road benefits.

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According to a study, which evaluated 12 bustling cities over 13 years, conducted by University of New Mexico and University of Colorado Denver researchers, a separated and protected bike lane not only safeguards cyclists, but also protects drivers and pedestrians who are sharing the road — resulting in a 44 percent decrease of road fatalities in cities that invest in such infrastructure compared to those that don’t.

“Protected separated bike facilities was one of our biggest factors associated with lower fatalities and lower injuries for all road users,” study co-author Wesley Marshall, a University of Colorado Denver engineering professor, told Streetsblog. “If you’re going out of your way to make your city safe for a broader range of cyclists…we’re finding that it ends up being a safer city for everyone.”

At first, researchers suspected that just the presence of more cyclists on roads equipped with painted bike lanes or roads that had ample room for cyclists to share the road with motorists would automatically encourage drivers to travel at a lower speed, thus resulting in a decrease of accidents. The researchers, who based their assumption on a previous study analyzing the correlation of cyclists and traffic accidents, were wrong. Painted lines and shared space isn’t enough to curb the problem.

“Instead, researchers found that bike infrastructure, particularly physical barriers that separate bikes from speeding cars as opposed to shared or painted lanes, significantly lowered fatalities in cities that installed them,” reports Aaron Short, Streetsblog writer.

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According to Marshall, because physical bike facilities encourage cars to drive slower, overall, collisions between vehicles have the potential to be less severe, too.

News Source: Streetsblog USA, Taylor & Francis Online, Science Direct