Are Bike Lanes Enough?

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington poses an interesting question:
Bike Commuters / www.pedbikeimages.org / Carl SundstrumIs building bicycle lanes the only way to get more people to ride bikes? Will non-cyclists start biking to work if bike lanes are installed near their homes or work sites?

Bellingham, Washington did that but also tried some personalized conversations about bike safety and routes, including the offer of a ?bike buddy??a one-on-one meeting with an experienced cyclist whose ?review helped plan out bike routes near the person?s home. The cost of this marketing effort was much less than a bike lane and appears to have been successful: A 15% drop in vehicle miles traveled, as well as an 11% increase in bus trips, a 22% increase in walking trips and a 35% increase in bicycle trips. In the targeted area, 20% of trips are done on foot (compared to 12% citywide) and 11% by bike (versus 6% citywide).

Does that mean we don’t need more bike lanes? No! As Rutgers University planning professor Dr. John Pucher, one of the leading bike transportation researchers in the U.S., says, the more bicycling infrastructure a city has (i.e. the safer bicycling seems to be), the more bicyclists there will be. Conversely, the more bicyclists there are, the safer bicycling becomes.

But if communities are able to couple infrastructure projects with education, we will all benefit and have safer, more livable places to live. That’s why the WWBPA is at the Farmers’ Market twice a month talking to area residents about where to walk and bike. We believe our efforts have encouraged more people to ride their bikes in town.

That leads to another benefit: safety in numbers. The theory, which has been gaining credence since it was first proposed in 2003, is that as more people ride their bikes, drivers learn to expect cyclists, even inexperienced ones. Accidents don’t go up — they go down.

Are you looking for a bike buddy to help you find a safe route to work — or even ride with you to work a few times? Email the WWBPA.

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