In 2018, The Washington Post reported that six of the ten safest cities for bicyclists were found in California. Yet, Los Angeles still ranks as one of the most dangerous cities for biking.
However, April did bring the first protected two-way bike lane to Los Angeles, and another one could be coming this fall. This is a huge step forward to improve safety—and not just for bicyclists. Over the years, many studies have found that protected bike lanes help keep everyone on the road safer.
Several reports say protected bike lanes increase overall safety
Protected bike lanes are separated from the main roadway and have a physical barrier between cyclists and traffic, such as pillars or plants. Most bicyclists already understand the benefits that protected bike lanes offer, but these dedicated spaces:
- Reduce risks bicyclists face from sharing the road with motor vehicles or reckless drivers
- Decrease collisions from drivers opening car doors along street parking
- Promote bicycling and reduce the number of vehicles on the road
In fact, a 2012 study by the American Public Health Association estimated that protected bike lanes could reduce the chance of severe injuries by nearly 90%. Other studies since then also reported that protected bike lanes significantly reduced risks of fatal accidents for both motorists and pedestrians as well.
Why? Protected bike lanes involve traffic calming measures
One of the reasons that protected bike lanes impact everyone’s safety is because they are usually a part of a larger project to calm traffic. Traffic calming projects aim to redesign the streets with tactics such as:
- Adding traffic circles, or roundabouts;
- Decreasing speed limits in certain areas;
- Installing speed bumps or texturing streets; and
- Building protected bike lanes.
Closely related to Los Angeles’ Vision Zero campaign, the goal of these traffic calming measures is to eliminate traffic fatalities by reducing the number and severity of crashes.
However, even though protected bike lanes seem to be a critical factor of calming traffic, the movement to add protected bike lanes in cities nationwide still faces several challenges.
Protected bike lanes often face a battle with street parking
Residents, business owners and motorists often oppose protected bike lanes in favor of adding more options for street parking. And this particular argument creates a complex dilemma for lawmakers since creating specific areas for street parking is yet another traffic calming strategy.
We have yet to obtain statistics of how well Los Angeles’ new protected bike lanes are working, but there is no denying how well these lanes improve safety and reduce the risk of crashes. It is critical to show city planners and the local government that protected bike lanes would be a more effective means to keep our citizens safe than street parking would.