The city of Los Angeles has been quick to celebrate its renewed focus on bicyclist safety in recent years. With projects such as Vision Zero and the continued rollout of bike-friendly infrastructure, there are some positive signs (despite some troubling results up to this point).

One area of focus is the installation and creation of protected bicycle lanes. While it may seem small, these dedicated paths can have a profound impact on overall road safety.

Study: Everyone benefits from protected bike lanes

A study published in the summer of 2019 looked at traffic fatality and injury data over a period of 13 years, from a dozen large U.S. cities. The findings were quite interesting. When cities installed bike facilities – namely, protected and separated bicycle lanes – it made the roads safer.

Crucially, it wasn’t just cyclists that benefited. The streets became less dangerous for everyone that used them.

As cities added these protected or separated bike lanes, fatalities and injuries tended to fall. The researchers estimated that a protected bike facility can reduce road fatalities by 44%, and result in 50% fewer serious injuries when compared to an average city.

Bike lanes in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has added more bike-oriented infrastructure in a bid to lower cyclist deaths, but protected lanes are still “few and far between,” as Streets Blog LA put it. As of December 2019, the city had added 11 protected biking facilities. In total, those amount to about 10.4 center-line miles of protected bike lanes.

Compare that to figures for some other large cities:

  • New York – 126 miles of protected bike lanes
  • San Francisco – 19 miles
  • Chicago – 25 miles

Los Angeles – one of the largest cities in the U.S. based on land area – could clearly go further. In addition, officials can consider other options. There are a number of simple ways cities can design public crossings to better protect both cyclists and pedestrians.

As a new decade begins, we hope to see more of these proven, effective ideas become a reality on L.A. streets.