Protected Bike Lanes Make Cities Safer for All Residents

Many cities across the country are trying to do their part to increase the number of commuters who choose to use alternative modes of transportation. Why? Studies continue to show that when bicyclists and pedestrians have access to safe infrastructure, they embrace it.

Increased biking and walking is correlated with less traffic, fewer overall accidents, and increased health and well-being. Cities are beginning to understand that they can affect all of these changes by simply installing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure measures.

Now we may be able to add another argument. In the past year, two new studies have shown that protected bike lanes make cities safer for all residents—not just cyclists and not just with regard to traffic accidents. There is a growing list of evidence suggesting that bike lanes are more than just a way for people to get around on two wheels. They have profound, sophisticated effects on a city’s safety and social fabric. Done right, bike lanes may be one key to a happier, healthier city for everyone who lives there.

According to a comprehensive study published in the Journal of Transport and Health, researchers at the University of Colorado, Denver and the University of New Mexico found that protected and separated bike lanes are strongly linked to lower fatality and injury rates not only for people on bikes, but for people in cars.

Researchers looked through 13 years of data from 12 large U.S. cities with high-bicycling mode shares, including Denver, Dallas, Portland, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo. During those years, the United States saw a 51% increase in bicycling to work and the number of protected bike lanes double each year starting in 2009. In a longitudinal study, the researchers investigated over 17,000 fatalities and 77,000 severe injuries.

Originally, researchers believed that more bike lanes and the increase in cyclists would lead to a "safety-in-numbers" effect: the more cyclists on the road, the more likely drivers would slow down and be aware of their surroundings.

But the most important safety factor was right on the pavement. Separate and protected bikes lanes were the strongest indicator of lower fatality and injury rates. Where cycle tracks were most abundant on a citywide basis, fatal crash rates dropped by 44 percent compared to the average city, and injury rates were halved. While cyclists benefited from having painted bike lanes as well as fully separated bike lanes in terms of safety, what paid off the most for all road users—drivers included—were protected lanes fortified with stanchions, planters, and the like.

Once completed, the Napa Valley VINE TRAIL will provide 47 safe and scenic miles of level, paved, family-friendly, dog-friendly, free-access Class I trail, stretching from the Vallejo Ferry to Calistoga.

The VINE TRAIL could serve as a new active transportation route for the more than 18,000 students who attend schools within a half-mile of the trail. “A lot of people would choose to ride their bike on a trip for an errand that is less than 3 miles,” says Philip Sales, Executive Director for the Vine Trail Coalition “The trail is going to connect neighborhoods, schools, shopping centers and places of employment. It really is going to provide a new opportunity for folks.”

However, the VINE TRAIL cannot be completed without support from community members and frequent visitors to wine country. Your donations will help make this project a reality.