City Desk

Study: Biking on L Street NW Jumps by 65 Percent After Cycletrack Installation

There's been a 65 percent increase in bike riders on L Street NW in the first year since the city installed a one-way protected bike lane on the street, according to a new study that the national bike organization PeopleForBikes conducted in partnership with Portland State University.

While at least a portion of this bump in ridership is the result of a broader increase in bike ridership, the study notes that the increase appears to be greater than the overall increase in bike commuting in the city. The "Lessons from the Green Lanes"  study examined protected bike lanes in five cities across the country, including the L Street bike lane in D.C and protected bike lanes in Portland, Austin, Chicago, and San Francisco.

L Street's 1.12-mile eastbound bike lane, running through parts of downtown, has a three-foot buffer, separating it from three lanes of automobile traffic. At intersections, there is a restricted turning lane for which cars can enter into the bike lane.

D.C.'s statistics were largely consistent with the data collected in the other cities: 56 percent of the cyclists surveyed said they would have made the same trip on their bikes even if the bike lane did not exist. 32 percent of cyclists said they would have still biked to their destination, but would have opted for a different route, 10 percent said they would have taken another mode of transportation, and about 2 percent of people said they would not have made the trip at all.

Nationwide, 49 percent of people said they were traveling on the routes with bike lanes more often than they were before the lanes were installed. The study surveyed 2,200 residents nationwide and observed more than 16,000 cyclists, 1,100 of whom researchers stopped to ask questions.

According to the study, 87 percent of drivers correctly use the turning lane and 91 percent of cyclists correctly go through these intersections.

Sixty-six percent of D.C. bikers feel their safety has "increased a lot" on the protected L Street bike and 29 percent of cyclists feel their safety "increased somewhat," according to the study. About 30 percent of D.C. drivers and 25 percent of pedestrians felt safety had increased on the street.

In all, 75 percent of residents throughout the country said they would support building more protected bike lanes in their cities. This number only slightly dropped to 69 percent when surveying people who consider automobiles their primary mode of transportation.

"This study provides definitive evidence that people feel safe riding in protected lanes and that people traveling by car or foot also support building more protected lanes to separate bicycles and automobiles," a press release about the study stated. "It also provides insight on the safety, use and economic effect of protected lanes."

The study relied on hours of video footage collected from the bike lanes, interviews with some of the bikers on the lanes,  and surveys of residents throughout the city. The L Street bike lane opened in October 2012 and the data collected is from the bike lane's first year.

The bike lane, of course, isn't without its troubles. There's a popular Tumblr shaming drivers that block the L Street bike lane. A similar, long-delayed protected bike lane going westbound on M Street ST will soon open in D.C.

Read the full study here.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery. 

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