Build Better Bike Networks Now —New Report Calls To Improve Cycling In America

Build Better Bike Networks Now —New Report Calls To Improve Cycling In America

Just about everything about cycling in the United States – from bike paths and connected networks to the culture itself –  is about 40 years behind peer nations in Europe. But that could change if cities and towns around the country prioritize building safe bicycle facilities to link more people and neighborhoods to more places.

Those are the highlights of a new report, “Benchmarking Bike Networks,” released on Wednesday by the League of American Bicyclists, that addressed the importance of safe bicycle infrastructure.

“We want to give advocates for better biking another tool to ensure streets in their community are designed in the safest way possible,” Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, said in a statement.   

The report offers examples, guidelines and a summary of best practices for different street contexts based on traffic speed and traffic volume to help make it easier for communities to know how to build them. If widely implemented, a robust infrastructure could increase safety and accessibility for cyclists, both for transportation and recreation. 

Bicycle friendly communities are those that have embraced building networks of low-speed streets and robust bike facilities, Nesper said, “that create safe, comfortable connections for people” that encourage more biking and help decrease bicyclist deaths. 

The report noted that with substantial federal funding directed towards projects to improve bicycling and walking in the most recent infrastructure bill, “now is the time for communities to build towards a future where active transportation by bike is a safe and easy choice to make.” It was produced by the League with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of its Active People, Healthy Nation initiative.    

Five communities featured in the report increased ridership and safety in recent years through building expanded and connected bike networks and improved bike facilities: Oakland, CA; Austin, TX; and Missoula, MT,  Boston, MA; and Chicago, IL. The success was attributed to planning, leadership, and creating and maintaining an up-to-date inventory and tracking of city bicycle facilities.

The report stressed the importance of embracing the Vision Zero or Safe System Approach to road safety and design when building connected networks that takes human error into account, first put into effect in Sweden in the 1990s. The goal is to eliminate all road deaths and serious injuries by creating multiple layers of protection, so if one fails, the others will create a safety net to lessen the impact of a crash.  

“Unfortunately, we are incredibly far from having comparable state-by-state data and standards that will allow us to truly comprehend bike networks but by analyzing how existing networks were developed, we can help others adopt an approach that’s best for their streets and create safer places to bike throughout communities,” Ken McLeod, policy director of the League and lead author of the report, said in a statement. 

“We see that every approach to building better bike networks starts with the safest and most protected bicycling facilities, like separated bike lanes,” and hopes communities everywhere “will embrace building more.”

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