I’ve been trying to build a case that making our streets safer from car traffic will bring out many more people to bike our streets. It seems intuitive to me but when talking to seasoned cyclists who use their bikes as their primary mode of transportation some think our streets quite safe. They are fit and have learned how to navigate the busy streets skillfully and safely. So I guess the test of that presumption is to ask if the major streets throughout town would be safe enough for their young children, wives, senior parents, or grandparents to bicycle routinely, assuming they were able to cycle and were not also seasoned cyclists. My objective is to draw many more casual cyclists, especially women, but also people of all ages to bicycle our streets as a means of shopping, dining, going to school, or simply enjoying the joys and exercise of bicycling. I consider myself a casual senior cyclist who bikes 2-3 days a week for less than an hour each day. I’d like to do much more.
Only about 1% of commuting residents use their bicycles on a daily basis. That leave 99% of the population that hardly bikes at all. So there are plenty of opportunities for a lot of perspective cyclists. If we could get 20% of our small population to cycle daily for local commutes we would become the bicycle capital of the U.S. What great press that would be for our city putting it on the international map as a biking destination and a model for other cities to follow. Articles would be written about us. Since we have a population of 60,000, 20% would be 12,000 cyclists resulting in significantly fewer cars and consequently less traffic congestion and safer streets. It is like a positive feedback loop of increasing bicycle safety which in turn encourages more people to bicycle. Bicycles are very Efficient and solve so many problems created by cars. Is this possible? Yes but it would take some doing to draw that many people out to bicycle. However it is my contention from personal experience that SAFETY is the Number One factor hindering people from cycling today. There are studied that prove this point:
- How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road
- Statistics Library / Protected Bike Lane Statistics
- Protected Bike Lanes Aren’t Just Safer, They Can Also Increase Cycling
- New DOT Report: Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for Everyone
- This Small Infrastructure Investment Can Increase Bicycle Ridership by 75 Percent in Just One Year
These are only a few article related to safer bicycle lanes resulting in higher bicycle ridership. So this isn’t just intuitive, it is supported by results. It is true that bicycle fatalities are overrated. There are between 700-800 bicycle fatalities in the U.S. per year most from collisions with cars. But if people do not FEEL safe riding their bikes they won’t. I feel unsafe riding most of our major streets which inhibits me from riding more extensively or frequently in Cupertino even when I am aware of the statistics. Statistics are not going to make me feel any safer riding my bike and neither will they for the 99% of other residents not using their bikes daily.
In order to make biking far more popular the city is going to have to make our streets FEEL SAFE, not simply feel more safe. This is not an issue of educating the public of the facts but providing the public with SAFE FEELING bicycle lanes and paths. Unless and until this is done people will not put their lives at risk, whether these fears are founded or not. I feel that for any community to consider it a Bicycle Friendly City it must at the very least have streets that feel safe to bike. It isn’t expensive relative to building roads and in many cases only takes some paint to place bicycle lanes between parked cars and sidewalk curbs. But it will cost. It needs to be part of a city’s budgetary priority.
Class IV protected bicycle lanes have already been covered by an early post so I won’t elaborate on them. But they will go a long ways towards making streets feel safer to bike by placing barriers or distance between car traffic and bicycles. Bicycle trail away from traffic are also a safe-haven for biking. Far more needs to be developed in Cupertino. So if Cupertino is to ever want biking to become far more popular it will have to address the SAFE BIKE LANE issue and the sooner it does it the faster traffic congestion will be removed from such places as around our schools. I would expect biking to gradually increase to 10% when safety concerns are properly addressed. Increasing bicycle popularity to 20% will require other enticing features also described on other posts on this blog.