You Need to Build Lanes to Get More Bikers, Not the Other Way Around

Toronto bicycle lane 1 photo
Photo: Dylan Passmore on Flickr
In most of the large cities, cycling can be viewed as a pretty dangerous activity, a sure way to get your daily dose of adrenaline without jumping off a building or challenging a pit bull to a fight.
That’s because traffic in these cities tends to be a nightmare, and the men and women on bikes have to share it with the rest of the drivers. It wouldn’t be a problem, but not all drivers pay attention to cyclists, and not all cyclists play by the rules. So the heavy rush hour traffic becomes a potential massacre with neither side deserving full blame and neither being completely innocent.

But there’s a solution for that, and some of the major European cities have figured it out: building special, dedicated bicycle lanes that put a buffer between the cars and the cyclists while also preventing the latter from entering the road.

A test run that took place on the Sherbourne Street in Toronto wanted to see how many more cyclists building a separate bike lane would bring, and the results speak for themselves. While the switch from painted lanes to individual ones can’t be attributed to the whole 300 percent increase in the number of riders, it’s clear that precarious safety is what keeps most people away from commuting to work or school on bicycles.

In fact, in the example cited above, 23.87 percent of those who said they only started cycling on the Sherbourne Street bike lane after the modifications carried out in 2012 said the reason behind their decision was the improved safety levels. A very close second on the list of reasons was the reduction in travel time, showing once again that, in many cases, traveling by bike can be not only healthier and more enjoyable but also faster.

It seems we’re in one of those situations where municipalities need to take a leap of faith and put the cart before the horse. If getting people to leave their cars at home and travel by bike is what you’re after, then it seems that waiting for the number of cyclists to grow so that building the infrastructure becomes viable is the wrong approach. You have to create the premise first so that people feel safe to pedal out there by offering as many separate bike lanes as possible and trust that, in time, the cyclists will come.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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