The U.S. still needs big improvements to its bicycling infrastructure to increase cyclist safety and encourage more cycling by all groups and for all trip purposes, including the commute, says Virginia Tech expert Ralph Buehler, as we celebrate National Bike to Work Week from May 13-19, 2019.
“Most roads in the U.S. have no cycling infrastructure, and what exists is not connected to form a useful and safe network of bikeways that attracts more risk averse individuals. In addition, some bikeway infrastructure is dangerously designed and poorly maintained. In particular many intersections are dangerous for cyclists because of turning motor vehicles,” says Buehler.
Buehler says that traffic fatalities and serious injuries are not inevitable, and they can be reduced by implementing the right policies, especially improved infrastructure.
Buehler’s research points to cities both nationally and internationally that offer on-street bicycle lanes, which are physically separated from motor vehicles by raised curbs, bollards, or concrete barriers to improve safety on major streets. As a result, places such as Portland, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C. reduced cyclist crashes and serious injury rates.
"More and better bicycle infrastructure and safer cycling would encourage Americans to make more of their daily trips by bicycle and help raise the current low physical activity levels of the U.S. population,” says Buehler.
Once bike infrastructure is improved, Buehler’s research finds there are also incentives employers can use to encourage more cycling. This includes having showers, lockers and bike parking for employees. He also says that cash incentives work best if companies don’t offer free parking as an option.
Ralph Buehler is an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech in the National Capital Region. Buehler has more than 15 years of research experience in the area of bicycling with over 25 peer-reviewed published articles that have been cited widely in the U.S. and abroad. He is co-editor of the book ‘City Cycling’ and is co-editing a new volume titled ‘The Future of City Cycling.’ He has served as a research consultant for five bi-annual national bicycle-benchmarking projects by the Alliance for Biking and Walking (and the League of American Bicyclists). Buehler has served as chair of the Committee for Bicycle Transportation of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies.
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