Survey: Protected bike lanes have seven times the impact of striped ones

September 01, 2015

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer


Alki Avenue, Seattle.

We all know that if your goal is to get meaningful numbers of people to ride bicycles, protected bike lanes are better than conventional ones painted into a door zone. But how much better?

Well, adding a bike lane to a four-lane commercial urban street increases the number of American adults who say they'd be "very comfortable" biking on it from 9 percent to 12 percent.

Making that bike lane protected increases the number from 12 percent to 29 percent.

The finding comes from a survey of adults in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas by the National Association of Realtors, conducted by Portland State University and published this summer. It's some of the clearest, simplest evidence yet that for people of every demographic, a door-zone painted bike lane on a busy street makes far less difference to people's biking comfort than one with a physical barrier between bike and car traffic.

In fact, the experience of riding in a protected bike lane beats riding in a painted door-zone one by about as much as riding on an off-street path beats riding on a city street at all. That's true across the board: two genders, every generation, every income, every education level.

(You can read the exact wording of the question here. Participants could choose "very comfortable," "somewhat comfortable," "somewhat uncomfortable," "very uncomfortable" or "don't know.")

Obviously there are many streets where cities can't install protected bike lanes, at least not yet. But if your city's goal is to increase bike trips, it shouldn't be creating door-zone bike lanes unless there's a clear reason not to do better.

White paint just isn't good enough to make a major difference.

Looking for statistics that make the case for protected bike lanes? We've got a database of them.

The Green Lane Project helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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