28 November 2007

More Bikes Means Fewer Accidents

The City of Copenhagen's biannual Cycle Report [the link is to a pdf and it's in Danish] is a goldmine of great statistics regarding our bicycle culture.

Even though our bike infrastructure is highly-advanced, the City is constantly revising and reviewing all the issues regarding integration of bikes in the streets. It is an ongoing, long-term affair.

Bikes have equal access everywhere in the city, but there are as a rule dedicated bike lanes on most roads with traffic.

When Copenhagen builds new bike lanes on a stretch of road, there is a bicycle traffic increase of 20% and a 10% decrease in car traffic. Bike lanes subsequently increase cyclists' safety and perception of safety, encouraging them to ride more.

The flipside of this is that there is a tendency for more accidents at intersections. The use of blue painted bike lanes across intersections is on the rise, as they help cyclists and motorists see the bike lanes. Having one blue painted strip of bike lane leading across an intersection is shown to increase safety.

The primary challenge is ensuring that cyclists are visible to motorists at intersections and, on the other side of the coin, that cyclists are aware of the motorised traffic. One way of increasing this common awareness is to place the two parties closer together in the traffic.

Another way is to place the cyclists physically in front of the cars at intersections – something that can be achieved by merely moving the stop line for cars back 4-5 metres. The cyclists at the stop light will be more visible, especially for motor vehicles turning right.

The statistics show that the number of bike accidents resulting in death or serious injury continues to fall year by year. In 2004 there were 124 accidents causing death or serious injury and in 2006 there was 92. The number of deaths is roughly 6 per year and the City regards a reduction in these numbers as a primary goal. It's worth noting that more pedestrians lose their lives in Copenhagen each year than cyclists. For the sake of perspective.

In comparison, Melbourne, Australia has over 200 serious injuries a year – a city with far, far less cyclists than Copenhagen.

The constant reduction of this statistic over a 10-year period shows that it is possible to drastically reduce the number of serious bike accidents. One of the most important factors is that an massive increase in bike usage causes the number of accidents to fall sharply.

More bikes on the roads means less accidents.

This report is ten years old, but it shows the tendency.

We have mentioned before the coining of the phrase ”Copenhagenizing a city” - meaning the construction of dedicated and segregated bike lanes. It is also known as giving a city ”the Copenhagen Treatment”. Here's a link to an article in the Melbourne Age about that city's investment in the Copenhagen Treatment.

Not everyone is thrilled about new bike lanes or increased bike usage. It is often a bit shocking to read about this anti-bike sentiment. Read the message posted under this article in the Edinburgh News. Although the agressive tone is also seen in some posts by cyclists.

And this post from the cool blog Seeing Green about some residents protesting against bike lanes on 9th street.
Which I found on this groovy post.

Do let us know about any initiatives where you are. We're always interested to hear about them.


Lee said...

Glad to let you know the 9th Ave. bike lanes are being implemented now and seem to be working well!

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks very much for letting us know, Lee! Anywhere you know of where we can see photos?

darryl said...

I lived in Copenhagen for 6 years and whether heading out on a training ride or for daily transportation, I can tell you the system works and is an absolute joy! Cyclists feel respected and safe, because they are. It also gives drivers comfortable parameters and responsibilities. Oh, if we could only get on the progam here in N. America!!!

Bruce said...

About the blue lane... In the US, the first cyclist to go down on that blue paint because of rain making it slick would sue the pants off the municipality.

We suck.

A bike-friendly USA? Not in my lifetime, I am sad to say.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for those comments. Glad you liked the Copenhagen Experience, darryl.

Bruce. the paint was not selected willy nilly. It was carefully designed and developed so as to not become slippery when wet. It's just like the asphalt.

Not in your lifetime? Perhaps not, but there surely will be an increase in bike usage. I'm sure about that. Maybe only small pockets like Portland, Davis, a couple of bigger cities. But it's a start.

radzi.info said...

You might find it interesting that some Melbournian cyclists are actually quite vocally against the introduction of Copenhagen style lanes on road, which is a bit perplexing to me. The rationale seems to be that it increases the risk of bike-bike collisions (usually from hard core roadies), abuse of lane by pedestrians (again the same bunch), and perhaps the very act of segregation is lessening their status as legitimate users on other roads - a slightly more salient point as the new implementation is by no means extensive, yet. I think the commuter cycling mentality is something that will take time to develop for both motorists & seasoned roadies, but to me having such a system would encourage far more real people to get on their bikes where as before they might be intimidated by the road.


Broadwaycyclist said...

Bruce, during my commute between Manhattan and Brooklyn I travel about six blocks on a green-painted bike lane (Henry St in Brooklyn Heights) and am happy to report the paint is a better surface, when wet, than the roadway. This type of friction paint is commonly used in workshop floors near power tools such as saws where workers don't want to slip. I like painted lanes because they do seem to make motorists realize they shouldn't be driving there, but it doesn't keep people from parking in them.

I like the new 9th Street lanes in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but again I still have to ride around those that think they're parking lanes.

Joe said...

I lived in CPH for one year and totally enjoyed riding my bike to work, and also watching all of the interesting people out and about. FYI, in Denmark there's a 150% tax on the sale of automobiles. Over a year ago, gasoline cost about $7.00 USD/gallon. The top income tax rate (plus or minus pension contribution) is near 50%.

If we placed additional taxes and fees in the States, it would do two things: a) alter people's behavior; b) fund the infrastructure to get to this point.

Now I'm back in the States (Atlanta) and am miserable with the ridiculous auto traffic, but do see small pockets of improvement. But many people want to keep taxes as low as possible, and elect officials who don't raise fees & taxes.

Another difference here in the States is that there are many levels of government within a relatively small geographic area. Making a regional plan is quite a formidable task. For example, in the greater Atlanta area (five million people) there are about 6-8 counties. Each county has dozens of cities. And then there is the State and finally the Federal levels. Trying to get the local governments to all agree to do the same thing is a HUGE task. There is not just one area government to make a plan, find budgeting and implement.

Such is life here in the States...


Anonymous said...

"fewer" accidents

Treadly and Me said...

I'll put my hand up as one of the Melburnian cyclists, as mentioned by radzi.info, who questions the introduction of Copenhagen-style bike lanes in my city--although I'm more bike lane agnostic than inherently opposed. There are plenty of things to like about Copenhagen bike infrastructure, but we need to copy thoughtfully not carelessly.

Melbourne has had "bicycle storage areas" (that is, a priority position for bicycles ahead of other traffic at intersections) for some years now and they are certainly helpful, improving visibility of bikes for drivers of other vehicles.

Likewise, a painted stripe across intersections seems like a good visual cue. The one significant length of road with segregated bike lanes in Melbourne has sections that are painted green and like broadwaycyclist I have found that the effect is to increase traction in the wet rather than the reverse. (I suppose this wouldn't prevent someone with a litigious bent from claiming otherwise, but there you go...)

One of my objections to the length of segregated lane that has been installed in Melbourne is that it wasn't really necessary: a quite wide bike lane beside a wide general traffic lane already existed on this section of road. As it was (perhaps with some repaving) the conditions on this section of Swanston St would have compared favourably to many non-segregated bike lanes in Copenhagen. Nevertheless, the new segregated lanes have been declared a success and other such lanes are to be installed--and the objections are predictable and familiar (do they sound like the 9th Street objectors to anyone?)

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for all those comments. Great to see so many points of view.