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Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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Biketober: Conventional Bike Lanes Crucial to Bike Lane Network Safety

Released at inauguration of new 4-mile protected bike lanes along Northern Boulevard, new study shows that when either conventional or protected bike lanes are added to NYC streets, risk of crashes and injuries decline by one-third and cyclist volumes increase by 50%

NEW YORK—Standing along four-miles of permanent new protected bike lanes along Northern Boulevard in Astoria/Woodside, DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman today released a new study, Safe Streets for Cycling: How Street Design Affects Bicycle Safety and Ridership, which for the first time provides an in-depth analysis of the change in cycling risk following the installation of both conventional and protected bicycle lanes. As part of research completed as a result of the de Blasio Administration’s 2019 Green Wave report and Safer Cycling, the newest study uses detailed crash data and concludes that the addition of a bicycle lane – whether a protected lane or a conventional one – improves the safety of cyclists by one third. The addition of those lanes also increases the volume of cyclists by an average of 50%.

"Our data-driven approach to Vision Zero means we can smartly allocate our resources and target our street redesigns for maximum effectiveness," said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman."While the point may seem redundant, data is essential to effective governance, and we can now say with scientific precision that all kinds of bike lanes make streets both safer and encourage more cyclists to ride. This new bike lane on Northern Boulevard is essential to building out the bike network for Queens that will make the streets safer for everyone – cyclists, delivery people, pedestrians and drivers."

Commissioner Gutman released the study along Northern Boulevard in Astoria/Woodside, nearly four miles of which has been transformed in the last year, including with the addition of new protected bicycle lanes (PBLs) that connect the Queensboro Bridge to the larger Queens bicycle network. This section of Northern Boulevard has been a Vision Zero priority corridor with a rate of death and serious injury (KSI) rate that ranked it among Queens’ top 10% most dangerous corridors. Between 2014 and 2018, this part of Northern Boulevard had also been the site of three fatalities. With the completion of this bike lane, DOT has completed 15.1 miles of protected bike lanes this year, and should reach the goal of 30 miles of protected lanes by the end of the year.

In addition to completing the protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard, DOT recently created a protected bike lane on Crescent Street as well as over 10 miles of conventional and shared lanes throughout Astoria, building a network that makes cycling safer throughout western Queens.

Safe Streets for Cycling: How Street Design Affects Bicycle Safety and Ridership
The study sampled over 100 miles of on-street bicycle lanes in New York City, using new data to assess the risk of injury for cyclists. That risk is quantified by dividing bicyclist injuries per mile by estimated bicycle volumes – and compares data up to three years after project installation.

The study reports that protected bike lanes reduce risk of injury by 34% on streets where they are installed. On the highest-risk streets, cyclist risk of injury is reduced by over 60%. Meanwhile, conventional lanes also substantially lowered risk cyclist risk of injury by 32% where they are installed. The key finding of the report is that protected and conventional lanes work in tandem to reduce risk across the entire bicycle network to reduce risk by 32%. Protected lanes are ideal for installation in the"spine" of the network on wider and one-way streets, while conventional lanes feed into that network on slower, narrower local streets.

The study also concluded that cycling volumes along both new conventional and new protected lanes increased ridership by 50%. The study is released on the heels of this month’s Cycling in the City report, which among many findings, reported that daily cycling in New York City had increased 26% since 2014.

Northern Boulevard Transformation
Northern Boulevard approaching the Queensboro Bridge has been a Vision Zero priority corridor known for a high KSI rate, driven largely by off-peak speeding of vehicles. Under Vision Zero since 2014, DOT has lowered the speed limit (to 25 MPH) along Northern and made myriad engineering and design changes to the street, including: speed cameras, new pedestrian refuge islands, curb extensions, pedestrian head-starts, and high-visibility crosswalks.

In September, 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOT fast-tracked a plan to add temporary protected bicycle lanes along Northern Boulevard and Broadway in Astoria and Woodside. The demand for such a corridor was partially fueled by high bicycle ridership along the adjacent 34th Avenue Open Street in Jackson Heights.

At community presentations in February 2021, DOT revealed its plans moved to make the new temporary lanes permanent, including through the addition of green paint and intersection markings. The new curbside protected lanes along Northern have now permanently replaced moving lanes while the previous delineator-protected lanes along Broadway installed last year were entirely replaced this year with parking-protected lanes. As recently as the summer of 2020, neither street had any bike lanes.

"Bike lanes—especially protected bike lanes—save lives. They also incentivize more New Yorkers to get around on a bike, which is a major way to help reduce congestion on our streets and lessen the pollution in our air," said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson."Breaking the car culture means redesigning our streets to make them more usable for cyclists and pedestrians. This report provides more important real-world data to back up this approach."

"Protected bike lanes are universally regarded as the gold standard for safe street designs for cyclists and now we have yet another compelling data point confirming they both increase ridership and decrease crashes," said Caroline Samponaro, Vice President for Transit, Bike and Scooter Policy at Lyft."Last year, Citi Bike hosted a community workshop to reimagine what Northern Boulevard could look like to safely accommodate more walking and biking trips and we are thrilled to see DOT bringing the community's ideas into reality."

"Survey after survey shows that protected bike lanes are popular and a proven tool to shrink cycling’s gender gap," said Juan Restrepo, Senior Organizer at Transportation Alternatives."The completion of four miles of protected bike lanes along Northern Boulevard – a temporary pilot now permanent – will make traveling along the corridor safer, more accessible, and will help New York City meet the ongoing bike boom. We look forward to future projects that align with our NYC 25x25 vision to create streets for people and that bring protected bike lanes to dangerous corridors across the city."

"Los Deliveristas Unidos (LDU) are excited that NYC is adding more bike lanes to our streets. Bike Lanes are an essential tool for Deliveristas because it protects and saves lives. Los Deleliveristas Unidos looks forward to continue working with the NYC DOT and advocating for investments in resources and infrastructure for all New Yorkers," said Hildalyn Colón Hernández, Director of Policy & Strategic Partnerships for Los Deliveristas/Workers Justice Project.

"Delivery workers played a major role in getting New Yorkers through the pandemic, putting themselves at risk with every order," said Juan Solano, Founder of the NYC Food Delivery Movement Coalition."Bike lanes are the first step to making delivery work safer and more efficient."