The United States still needs big improvements to its bicycling infrastructure to improve safety and encourage more cycling commuting, according to a recent journal article by experts from Virginia Tech and Rutgers University that’s especially timely for “National Bike to Work Week” that will be held on May 15-19.
“Traffic fatalities and serious injuries are not inevitable, and they can be reduced by implementing the right policies, especially improved infrastructure and technology,” says Virginia Tech’s Ralph Buehler, an associate professor in urban affairs and planning.
According to a recent editorial and study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPJH), co-authored by Buehler and John Pucher, professor emeritus, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, the U.S. has a much higher fatality and serious injury rate compared to other countries. Most roads in the U.S. have no cycling infrastructure, and what exists is often dangerously designed, poorly maintained, and not connected to form a useful network. In many urban areas intersections are dangerous for cyclists because of turning motor vehicles.
The researchers find that recent implementation of improved cycling infrastructure in 10 cities across the U.S. has led to significant improvements in safety. For example, offering on-street bicycle lanes that are physically separated from motor vehicles by raised curbs, bollard, or concrete barriers improve safety on major streets. As a result, places such as Portland, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C. have reduced the number of cyclist crashes and serious injuries.
“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 says there are incentives employers can use to encourage more cycling. This includes having showers, lockers and bike parking for employees. He says that cash incentives work best if companies don’t offer free parking as an option.
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