Bike lane datapoints of the day

By Felix Salmon
October 8, 2010
Matt Chaban has found a new study from Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, looking at the amount of misbehavior going on in New York's bike lanes.

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Matt Chaban has found a new study from Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, looking at the amount of misbehavior going on in New York’s bike lanes. I’ve uploaded the study here and embedded it below; many thanks to Stringer for putting together the resources to make it happen. The study’s main finding will come as no surprise to anyone, although it’s good to have in vaguely empirical form:

The data is clear: while bike lanes bring a tremendous benefit to New York City, misuse by all parties—motorists, pedestrians and cyclists—undermines their success.

Stringer sent out observers to 11 different bike lanes on three days this week during the morning and evening rush hour. Over that time, a total of 1,781 infractions were observed. Stringer has his own pie chart, but I’ve made my own to more clearly separate out who’s at fault in each case:

infractions.png

All of the observation points were at bike lanes, so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that bike-lane salmon outnumber street salmon. All that says is that when there’s a bike lane to hand, the salmon will flock to it, rather than ride in the street. Also, it’s worth noting that the chart adds up only bike-related infractions. If a car ran a red light, or a pedestrian jaywalked, or anything like that, it wasn’t counted.

A few of the findings were particularly striking:

  • Unmarked police vehicles love to use bike lanes to speed past traffic in non-emergency situations. The police love to flaunt their impunity.
  • For one hour at Grand and Bowery, there were more bike salmon in the bike lane than there were bikers riding the right way.
  • Pedestrians completely ignore the bike lane on Broadway, treating it as pedestrian space.

Stringer’s recommendations make a lot of sense. Top of the list is increased enforcement against motorists blocking bike lanes: over the course of three days of observations, there were more than 275 vehicles blocking bike lanes, which between them got just 2 tickets.

And a dedicated bike lane patrol is a great idea: mobile police who can get around quickly and nimbly, and who experience the frustration felt by cyclists at first hand. I also suspect that cyclists might be less aggrieved if they got their tickets from someone on a bike.

The main good news here, though, is that Stringer is taking this issue seriously, he’s not taking sides, and he’s helping to push the city government in the right direction. Good for him.

Respect the Lane

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