The Debate Over Physically-Separated Bike Lanes Continues

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A physically-separated bike lane on a shopping street in Copenhangen, Denmark

Two weeks ago "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz wrote an op/ed for the Sunday Times advocating for physically-separated bike lanes in New York City. The next weekend, John Allen, a Waltham-based regional director for the League of American Bicyclists replied that separated bike lanes are dangerous and bad idea. Period. This Sunday's Times carried a letter from Noah Budnick, the Deputy Director of New York City's Transportation Alternatives, refuting Allen's claims:

To the Editor:

A Nov. 12 letter claimed that riding a bike in a physically protected bike lane is more dangerous than biking in traffic.

I strongly disagree.

In fact, physically segregating bikers and drivers is often a safety imperative, particularly on streets with high-volume and high-speed traffic.

A recent study of the last 10 years of bicycle crashes in New York City by the city departments of health, transportation, police and parks found that fatal bicycle crashes rarely occur in marked bicycle lanes (1 out of 225 cyclist fatalities in 10 years).

Furthermore, physically protected bike paths greatly promote cycling. Since the car-free Hudson River Greenway opened in 2001, daily cycling on it has increased 27 percent, and, during the same time, cycling on Manhattan's avenues has increased 30 percent.

While driver and cyclist education and enforcement are part of the equation to increase cycling in New York City, New Yorkers will not be encouraged to ride if they perceive streets and traffic to be scary and uninviting. More protected space will make city streets more inviting to bicyclists of all ages and abilities.

Would you feel comfortable biking on Sixth Avenue without protection from traffic?

Noah S. Budnick

Photo: Aaron Naparstek