STUDY: Bike Lanes Speed Up Traffic

An NYC Department of Transportation study found protected bike lanes reduced traffic delays in congested areas. Details on how adding bike lanes can improve traffic flow


What Happened?

The NYC Department of Transportation studied the impact of protected bike lanes on motorist navigation and found the lanes both protect bicyclists and reduce traffic delays. The bike lane developments did not eliminate any driving lanes, and created left-turn lanes that helped speed up traffic in spots of congestion throughout the city.

Goal

The New York City Department of Transportation's study on bike lanes analyzed about 31 miles of protected bike lanes built out in the city since 2007. The study’s results revealed protected bike lanes not only reduced bicyclist injury and fatalities, but also improved traffic flow in several key intersections. The NYC DOT’s data analysis found after protected bike lanes were constructed:
  • Crashes and injuries dropped by 17 percent
  • Pedestrian injuries fell 22 percent
  • Total injuries were reduced by 20 percent
  • The average risk of serious injury to cyclists from 2001 to 2013 decreased by 75 percent
  • Travel speeds in the Central Business District remained steady
  • Travel times on Columbus Avenue improved
  • Travel times on 8th Avenue sped up by an average of 14 percent

Furthermore, the study showed streets with protected bike lanes reported increased retail sales and received streetscape upgrades, improving the quality of life for pedestrians in the neighborhoods.

The protected bike lanes were able to speed up traffic throughout NYC without significantly reducing the number of cars on the road. Bike lane construction did not take away any driving lanes only narrowed them. In addition, a pocket lane for left-hand turns allowed traffic to move steadily and not get delayed by turners.

Flagging Down Injuries

Other cities are cutting down on pedestrian injuries by providing orange flags for residents to waive when crossing busy streets. The eye-catching flags alert drivers to pedestrians, as well as key intersections and crosswalks, CityLab reported.

Fort Lauderdale is experimenting with the neon orange flag strategy in response to an exceptionally low ranking in pedestrian safety from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. The success of the program depends on how well pedestrians use the flags to grab drivers’ attention.

The orange flags are just one of several tactics Fort Lauderdale is implementing as part of its transportation plan. Other cities such as Kirkland, Washington; Berkeley, California; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Bridgeport, Connecticut, have adopted orange flag programs in the past reporting limited improvements in safety. The cost of 15 orange flags is just $60, however, making the program an affordable add-on to a pedestrian-centric safety strategy.

Seattle’s Modified Plan

The Seattle Department of Transportation offered pedestrians orange flags to increase safety, but reported several flags stolen and no noticeable decline in injuries. Instead of enforcing the flag policy, the city opted to allow each neighborhood to establish its own rules and guidelines to boost pedestrian safety. The city will make financial assistance available to neighborhoods interested in investing in orange flags through its Neighborhood Matching Fund or the Safe Routes to School minigrants.

Safety in the Numbers

Gov1 has followed a growing trend in bicyclist and pedestrian-focused projects aiming to improve safety, many of which qualify for federal funding support.

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