Dr. Nick Ferenchak Researches Cities with High Bicycling Rates

October 15, 2019

About 40,000 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes each year in the U.S. Researchers estimate that biking is about ten times less safe than driving on a per mile basis. However, cities with high rates of bicycling are some of our safest in terms of motor vehicle crashes. Why would that be? Does the presence of bicyclists force drivers to change their behavior? Is it the infrastructure that we build in these cities? Or are the demographics simply different? We examined these factors for 12 major U.S. cities, investigating 13 years of data that included crashes, mode choice, socio-demographics, trauma center access, weather, infrastructure, street networks, vehicle speeds, and more. Findings show that better safety is less about the number of bicyclists on our roads and more about the type of infrastructure we provide. Specifically, protected and separated bike lanes make the biggest impact. Holding all else constant, we'd expect cities in the top tier of protected bike lanes to kill 44% less road users (and that's all road users, not just bicyclists).