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Published on August 9th, 2014 | by Cynthia Shahan

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New Study: Bicyclists & Protected Bike Lanes Offer Big Savings To Society

August 9th, 2014 by  


A new study investigates various models of how bike infrastructure influences cities. It reasons that policies and projects supportive of bike lanes are deserving of the change; deserving of the money spent which becomes money saved.

Whether modifying infrastructure or changing a habit that is not serving oneself, change in and of itself is oftentimes linked with growing pains. Even the benevolent, helpful activity of bicycling, in cities where it has seen a big increase, has triggered animosity and backlash — urban growing pains, we might say.

Some people say bikes are dangerous. They are less so than cars, but they make some drivers nervous. Some drivers go so far as to get annoyed by bike lanes — what a bother they are to less inclined or active folks. What is the bother is that those folks are not putting A and B together to see the benefits bicyclists bring to the economy, land conservation, and everyone’s atmosphere.

 

The new study considers and analyzes these things and supports a strong yes to the development of more bicycle lanes.

One source covering the story, AljazeeraAmerica, reports: “The researchers used Auckland, New Zealand as their model city and applied five theoretical interventions to its infrastructure to see how bikers and other commuters would be affected. They found that the larger the investment in bike infrastructure, the more people would be encouraged to commute by bike, and therefore the larger the return on investment would be.”

Continuing, the new study delved into the cost savings in the form of reduction of pollution and traffic congestion, lowered health care costs, decreased traffic fatalities, and all the wonderful benefits of daily exercise. The study, conducted by several researchers at universities in New Zealand, was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In summary, it found that, for every dollar spent on bike-related infrastructure, cities can receive anywhere from $6 to $24 in cost savings.

I know, as a bicyclist, the times one finds some division between the bike lane and automobile traffic, I feel so safe and free. It may be simply a short path in between, or parked cars, or some bushes. The safety of a separation is so becoming and eases disturbance of potential accidents from a closer proximity.

The researchers did indeed assert that the swiftest and most cost-efficient way to get bikes on the road, cars off the road, and improve the public’s health was for the city to create separated bike lanes (aka protected bike lanes). They shared that concurrently slowing car traffic on shared roads matters as well.

 

AljazeeraAmerica points out: “Unfortunately, a common bike strategy in cities — sporadic improvements to roads, and the creation of bike lanes on only some routes — was predicted to only increase bike traffic by 5 percent. And this approach did not affect car use at all, meaning that residents of a city wouldn’t get the health benefit of less pollution. But the biggest problem with instituting this all-out strategy might not be government money but public perception.”

There is seamless and safe union of bikes, mass transit, and autos in several European cities, which we might find helpful in some way. However, bicycle integration, safety, and success started well over half of a century ago in Europe. In 1950, Utrecht saw the need for children to understand traffic safety early on. Imagine that. Children on bicycles were integrated safely into traffic and that has become a normal part of daily life in traffic. Over 50 years ago, they created this learn-by-doing, show-don’t-tell experience for their youth. We need to catch up in our communities — we are way behind.

Read related articles:

Californians Walking, Bicycling, & Using Mass Transit Doubled Since 2000

Green, New York Style: A Sustainability Tour of the Big Apple

Earth Policy Institute Projects Bike Fleets To Quadruple By 2014, Shared Bikes Increased 10 Fold Since 2004

Cycling For Everyone — An Expose: Organically Flowing

Traffic Garden of Utrecht

Image Credits: Paul Krueger (CC BY 2.0 license); whiteknuckled (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license) 
 
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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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