Study Confirms: Safer Bike Routes Get More People Riding

dill_chart.jpg
Bike infrastructure can help overcome safety concerns, says Portland-area researcher Jennifer Dill.

How effective are bike lanes at enticing people to ride? Portland State University professor Jennifer Dill has been looking into that question for more than a year, and her research is starting to get some attention. Using GPS trackers to map more than 1,700 bike trips, Dill found that about half of all bike travel occurs on dedicated infrastructure like bike lanes or bike boulevards, even though such routes comprise only eight percent of Portland’s street network.

Dill also conducted surveys about who rides most often and why people choose to bike or drive. She concludes that bike riding won’t expand far beyond a core demographic of young men unless perceptions of safety change, reports the Portland Tribune:

According to Dill, most regular bicyclists are young men. This means
that if the city wants to substantially increase the number of people
riding bikes on a regular basis, it needs to reach out to young women
and older people. And, Dill said, that is what public spending on bike
infrastructure can accomplish.

All this may come across as confirmation of common sense (Portland DOT has based its bike network strategy on similar surveys), but the notion that dedicated bike routes make cyclists safer is not universally accepted. Proponents of "vehicular cycling" reject bike infrastructure forcefully, claiming that biking amid traffic reduces collisions. They wield considerable influence over design standards at the federal level, and in Portland they have consistently opposed steps intended by the city to improve safety and boost bicycle mode share.

Dill’s preliminary research [PDF] adds to the evidence that dedicated bike infrastructure matters. Without a bike network that makes everyone feel safer — men and women, children and seniors, veteran and inexperienced riders — it’s hard to imagine that American cyclists will ever enjoy the safety in numbers that cities like Copenhagen have managed to produce.

Graphic: Jennifer Dill

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

New York’s Next Generation of Vehicular Cyclists

|
This video critique of the new bike lane on First Avenue has been making the rounds, and it must give some comfort to John Forester and the vehicular cycling school. Vehicular cyclists reject all forms of bicycle-specific infrastructure and believe all cycling should be done in traffic. In this vid they can see a young […]

All Eyes on Portland at Bike Summit

|
An organized ride on one of Portland’s bike boulevards. If there was a star at yesterday’s National Bike Summit, it was Portland, Oregon. After Earl Blumenauer, one of the city’s congressional reps and a former county commissioner, delivered the morning address, Portland’s bike planners and advocates shared their strategies at some of the more urban-focused […]

Should I Wear a Helmet Today?

|
The Naparstek boys riding last year’s Summer Streets event… wearing helmets. Sarah’s "Too Much Emphasis on Safety" post yesterday brings up the question in the headline above. A Canadian Broadcasting TV crew doing a documentary on biking is filming me as I take my two sons to school on our Dutch cargo bike today. While […]