Pull the bike out of the closet, pump up those tires, and dust off the helmet because it’s Bike to Work Week!
More people are choosing to bike to work than ever before. Across the United States, bike commuting has increased 62 percent since 2000. And as more people bike, cities are starting to take note. Since 2009, the number of protected bike lanes (those with a physical separation between bike and vehicle traffic, not just paint lines) has doubled every two years. It’s a cycle: build more bike lanes and more people will bike; more people bike, and there’s more impetus for more and better bike infrastructure.
There are lots of reasons to ride. Studies have found that those who cycle (or walk) to work are happier and healthier than their counterparts who drive. And the health benefits far outweigh any risks. Detractors of biking often cite the risk of injury from crashes or increased exposure to air pollution as reasons biking is more dangerous, but the data shows that cycling to work is nine times more beneficial than the risk posed by accidents and air pollution combined. Biking is also better for the environment. It’s an intuitive fact, but there are real benefits — according to National Geographic, “if every American living within five miles of work commuted by bike just one day a week, it would be like taking a million cars off the road entirely.” Biking is also cheaper … by a lot. Owning a car can cost you about $9,000 a year in fuel, tires, maintenance and repairs, taxes and registration fees, insurance, and car payments. The cost of biking includes the bike (or bikeshare membership) and some occasional maintenance and repairs which are far cheaper than car repairs. And finally, biking is a unique way to see a city, a qualitative, but real benefit. Even if you’ve been living somewhere for decades, seeing it from a bike will give you some new perspective on areas you may have only speed past in your car.
Now, in honor of Bike to Work Week, we’ll highlight some of the progress that has been made in the biking world.
More people are biking to work:
- As mentioned previously, bike commuting has increased by 62 percent since 2000, but this number doesn’t tell the whole story.
- In some cities, there have been even greater increases in biking. Between 1990 and 2013, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and San Francisco saw increase of about 300 percent. Chicago and Portland saw increases of around 400 percent. Washington, D.C. saw increases of almost 500 percent.
- And recent news has shown that New York City saw an increase of 320 percent in all cycling (not just commuting) between 1990 and 2014. It’s no coincidence that biking numbers have risen in New York (and around the country) as bike infrastructure has blossomed.
Bikes are getting some quality infrastructure:
- Protected bike lanes have doubled every two years since 2009. Today, there 283 protect bike lanes in 88 cities around the country, and that’s just a measure of one particular type of bike lane. The vast majority of bike lanes out there today are not protected (i.e. there is no physical barriers), but still give cyclists their own space on the road to use.
- And last week in Portland, OR nine (yes, nine!) new, protected bike lane projects were announced. Oregon is somewhat unique — it has a law that requires bike lanes to be built on most road construction projects or developers must explain why they’re not building one. The law has been around since 1971 but Portland, OR expanded on that law earlier this year. Now, according to our friends at Streetsblog, “every time Portland road designers recommended a bike lane, they would need to make it a protected bike lane — or else explain why not.”
Cycling is getting safer:
- There have been zero deaths involving cyclists using bikeshares in the U.S. even as bikeshares have exploded in cities across the country in recent years. Most major American cities now have, are launching, or are otherwise planning to add a bikeshare and many cities are expanding their systems as demand grows. In Boulder, CO, the number of trips in 2015 nearly doubled over the number of trips in 2014.
- And some cities are making big investments in bike and pedestrian safety. In 2015, Boston launched an initiative to reduce the number of fatal and serious traffic crashes (including those in cars) to zero by 2030, an effort known as Vision Zero. In 2015, the city budgeted $500,000 for Vision Zero. In the 2017 budget, that number has increased by a factor of six to $3.1million. As more and more cities from Boston to San Antonio to Seattle adopt Vision Zero plans, more investments in safe biking and walking street designs should follow.
Whether you’re a bike-to-work veteran, a first time bike-to-worker, or somewhere in the middle, let’s get some fresh air on our commutes to work this week by using our bikes (or local bikeshare). Even if you can’t do the whole week, biking to work for just one day has benefits — Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20th. We’ll see you out there!