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Adding bikes improves streets for everyone, even drivers

Published February 5, 2014 11:13 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In my piece on bike safety earlier this week I mentioned Salt Lake City's strategy to increase bike ridership and called it a "crazy-sounding" safety plan. It can just sound so counter-intuitive.

But it actually works.

In New York City, a recent study compared street conditions last year with those in 2009, according to Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic Cities. In the intervening time, the city has built hundreds of miles of bike lanes and launched a massive bike share program that logged 40,000 daily trips in good weather. That means a lot of new cyclists on the streets.

So what happened as the number of cyclists grew?

Goodyear writes that there were more people wearing helmets, more people riding in bike lanes and fewer people riding against traffic. More women also began riding. In addition, the study found that bike share riders were "exceptionally law abiding" and suffered few injuries.

I was also surprised, and pleased, to see that cyclists weren't the only ones benefiting; bicyclists also were obeying traffic signals more often as their numbers increased. Running through red lights and stop signs is a frequent complaint from car drivers about bicyclists, so it would seem that cars also stand to benefit from more egalitarian streets.

And that's what has happened in New York City: as Goodyear writes, drivers "no longer have a monopoly on the roadway and all users are adjusting to new infrastructure."

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii