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Press Releases

New Study Measures Impact of Protected Bike Lanes

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Boulder, Colo. (June 2, 2014)— A new Portland State University (PSU) research study released today offers the most comprehensive evaluation of protected bicycle lanes to date. The study, Lessons from the Green Lanes, examines recently installed protected bike lanes in five of the six founding PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project cities and provides the scientific basis for decisions that could improve bicycling in cities across the United States.

Protected bike lanes are on-street lanes separated from traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars or posts to help organize the street and make riding a bike an appealing option for people of all ages and abilities. Because protected bike lanes are relatively new to the U.S., little academic research has existed to help leaders evaluate the risks and rewards of the investment in putting the facilities on the ground.

This study provides definitive evidence that people feel safe riding in protected lanes and that people traveling by car or foot also support building more protected lanes to separate bicycles and automobiles. It also provides insight on the safety, use and economic effect of protected lanes.

Key Findings:

  • In its first year alone, a protected bike lane increases bike traffic on a street by an average of 72%
  • 96% of people riding in protected bike lanes felt safer on the street because of the lanes
  • 76% of people living near protected bike lanes support the facilities in additional locations, whether they use them or not
  • In 168 hours of video analyzed for safety, studying more than 16,000 people on bikes and nearly 20,000 turning and merging vehicles mostly at intersections, no collisions or near collisions were observed.
  • Drivers thought traffic became more predictable after protected lanes were installed. Most drivers said congestion and drive time didn’t change.

Researchers visited each of the five locations — Austin, Chicago, Portland, OR, San Francisco and Washington, DC — and selected one to two protected bike lanes to study in each city. They set up cameras at two to three locations on each protected lane to gather data including bicycle counts and conflicts. They collected 204 hours of video at 15 locations, mostly at intersections.

Researchers also collected survey responses from 2,301 residents living near the study sites. A total of 1,111 people riding in the lanes also shared their impressions through surveys. A combination of counts by cities and video review provided before and after counts of people using the lanes.

The research team at the National Institute of Transportation and Communities at Portland State University was led by Christopher Monsere, Jennifer Dill, Kelly Clifton and Nathan McNeil. Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Summit Foundation and PeopleForBikes, with in-kind support from the five cities.

“This study fills a critical gap in the research and can influence national guidance on protected bike lanes,” said Monsere. “Policymakers can look to this research to see how they could best use protected bike lanes to meet their mobility, safety and economic goals.”

“The timing is great,” said Martha Roskowski, vice president of local innovation for People for Bikes. “The surge of interest in protected bike lanes in cities and towns across the country is being matched by agency work to better understand, refine and standardize the designs. We are delighted to have helped fund this important and rigorous project.”

Download a full copy of the report. Learn more about the methodology used in the study.

About the Green Lane Project
The Green Lane Project is a program of the nonprofit PeopleForBikes, a movement to unite millions of people to improve bicycling in America. The Project helps cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. It is focused on protected bike lanes, which are on-street lanes separated from traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars or posts. In March of 2014, the Project announced six new cities for the two-year program: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

The National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, is a program of Portland State University’s transportation research and education center. NITC is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s national center for livable communities, providing insight to help communities make safe, healthy and sustainable transportation choices.