Get This: Cycling is Safer in Bike Lanes

mass ave bike laneThe much maligned Mass. Ave. bike lane, preventing injuries. (Photo by Casey Lyons)

Today in unsurprising news, we have a report out of the American Journal of Public Health, which concludes that bike infrastructure, no matter how rudimentary, cuts down on cycling-related hospital admissions by 50 percent. Just for painting a white line on the road and eliminating a lane for parking, which the city has done this year to some grumbling (also unsurprising).

The study confirms what many cyclists have long know, or at least suspected: Dedicating cycling infrastructure not only makes riders feel safe, it actually makes them safer. Put up all the violent, blood-bath-looking pro-helmet signs you’d like, the thin white line is what really helps.

The study reached this conclusion by surveying 14 different types of road conditions, from busy, arterial roads with no bike lanes and a row of parked cars all the way to protected bike lanes (the type that have a physical barrier between the cycling track and moving traffic). Again, unsurprisingly, the protected lanes were the best, with an injury rate 95 percent lower than arterial roads without bike lanes. The city currently has one of those along Western Avenue in Allston, and a second is planned for Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury.

Many bike commuters will also tell you that those arterial roads with no bike lanes are the sketchiest (the study confirmed this, too). We avoid them when possible, but sometimes there aren’t any better options. That’s what we need—better options so we can avoid riding on Boylston or Tremont or especially Huntington or any of the other places where cycling feels dangerous but is necessary because there’s no other route.

I understand that the city is limited in the amount of actual, protected infrastructure it can make by what is politically acceptable. So how about a trade: Swap a few car-only boulevards for a couple of bike-only boulevards during certain hours? For instance, Commonwealth Avenue in front of Boston University, from Kenmore to the BU bridge. Cars can take that during the rush hours if bikes can get the parallel Bay State Road at that hour, with only local car traffic. A few of those in key places could alleviate the motorist-cyclist power struggle, while also cutting down on injuries in a way that works.

Seems logical to me.

(h/t The Atlantic Cities)