The United States still needs massive improvements to its cycling infrastructure in order to encourage more bike commuters and improve safety, according to a recent report released by researchers from Rutgers and Virginia Tech universities.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPJH), is particularly timely as “National Bike to Work Week” will be held across the country next week, from 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,” said Virginia Tech’s Ralph Buehler, an associate professor in urban affairs and planning to to News Wise.
The study indicates America’s fatality and serious injury rate is much higher when compared to countries with significant bicycling infrastructure, namely Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The majority of U.S. roads don’t have any infrastructure to encourage cycling among the general population. Often what exists is unconnected from a useful network, poorly maintained and unsafely designed.
Researchers found that in 10 cities across the country, from Philadelphia to Portland, recent implementation of bikeway networks has led to a decrease in fatalities and severe injuries.
Protected bicycle lanes that are physically separated from traffic via concrete barriers or raised curbs have been shown to increase safety on major thoroughfares.
In cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, an emphasis on building and maintaining bicycle infrastructure has reduced the number of crashes by up to 75 per cent.
“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,” Buehler said.
Employers across the nation can also take advantage of improved cycling infrastructure Buehler said, by offering employees incentives such as lockers, showers and free bike parking if they commute to work via bike.
Just last month, the British Medical Journal released a study the shows long-term health benefits from cycling just 30 miles per week are substantial, which help further support the argument for an increase in bicycle infrastructure in not only the U.S., but around the world.