Physical barriers appear to provide the most safety benefits for bikers, according to a new study out of Australia. The study compared several stretches of bicycle lanes in Melbourne. The Australian researchers equipped bicyclists on each route with sonars and camera that could measure the distance and speed of each passing car. After gathering data over the course of a month, the academics analyzed the relationship between bike lane infrastructure and bike safety.
The results of the study showed that a physical barrier provided superior protection to bicyclists. On average, cars overtaking bicyclists left the shortest amount of distance between themselves in bicycle lanes marked solely by painted lines – a full 10 inches less than a bike lane with a physical barrier. Providing insightful analysis on the study, ArsTechnica interviewed the author of the study, Dr. Ben Beck, who said, “We know vehicles driving closely to cyclists increases how unsafe people feel when riding bikes and acts as a strong barrier to increasing cycling participation. Our results demonstrate that a single stripe of white paint does not provide a safe space for people who ride bikes.”
Installing bike lanes has been a pivotal part of Vision Zero, Mayor de Blasio’s public safety initiative hoping to eradicate all pedestrian and bicycle accidents in New York City. According to the Mayor’s office, New York City has built 83 miles of protected bicycle lanes during the de Blasio administration. The number of protected bicycle lanes increased sharply in the last few years – rising from 5.4 miles in 2014 to 20.9 miles in 2018. The protected bike lanes appear to be paying off for bicycle safety with the number of bicyclist deaths dropping from 20 to 10 in the last four years.
This precipitous drop comes at the same time bicycling has taken off in the city, partly due to Mayor de Blasio’s protected bike lanes. Given the slew of protected bike lanes being developed across the city, it looks like New York is taking the safest route with its bicyclists.