Davis, California is the bike-friendly capital of California, if not the United States. Over 16 percent of people bike to work! Compare that to Richmond’s 0.2%, or even Berkeley’s 8.9%.
Surprisingly, bike-friendly Davis, California has one tenth the traffic fatalities you would except for a city its size.
This week, urban planning blog Planetizen looks at Davis’s success, and digs a little deeper.
Traditionally, there’s a “safety in numbers” theory about bike safety. Knowing there are fragile bikers around makes drivers pause and drive more carefully. But that creates a sort of “chicken and the egg” problem – how is a street ever safe enough to attract more bikes?
Planetizen invited the authors of a new study, Evidence on Why Bike-Friendly Cities Are Safety for All Road Users, to share their research. Norman Garrick and Wesley Marshall propose that the same changes to street design that make roads safer for bicyclists also make driving safer for drivers and walking safer for pedestrians.
Think about it. Do you decide where to bike because you know people will be there, or because you know it has a bike lane?
This doesn’t mean that cities with lots of bicyclists don’t have lots of fender benders, but the odds of dying in a bike accident are much lower. That’s because the car is often moving more slowly. Anecdotal evidence of this relationship has been enough to launch complete street and traffic calming campaigns all over the country.
Traffic calming is simple. If you make a road look like it’s supposed to be driven slowly, people will drive slowly. This isn’t just changing posted speeds; we’re talking narrow lanes and making other road users more visible (either with bike lanes or pedestrian bulb outs).
Cities should indeed strive for ‘safety in numbers’ but before they can get to that point, they need to create bicycle friendly streets that will make it comfortable enough for the average Jane and Joe to take up biking. It is this act of creating comfortable and complete biking networks that ultimately results in both making cities biking friendly and, at the same time, making biking friendly cities safer for all users.
Contra Costa County residents can use the 511 Bike Mapper to find bike-friendly streets in your neighborhood. Whether your driving on a designated bike-friendly street or not, consider slowing down just in case.