While I was busy ranting about a questionable Letter to the Editor the Seattle Times Ed Board chose to publish, Mike Lindblom in the news department was working on a story about how the number of bicycle crashes and collisions in Seattle is staying constant even as the number of people biking increases dramatically.
According to an annual Census survey, the percentage of people in Seattle biking to work increased by more than 55 percent between 2007 and 2010 (and that does not factor people who started biking for reasons other than commuting). Yet the total number of collisions appears to have plateaued at somewhere between 359 and 392 crashes per year. This means Seattle is seeing the same “safety in numbers” trend recorded in cities with growing cycling populations around the world.
Basically, as more people in a city bike, the safer biking becomes for everyone.
The Times also put together a pretty cool (though rather daunting) interactive map of bike crashes and deaths in the city from 2007-2011. You can toggle between years and see how things have evolved over time.
The main things that jump out to me are:
- We need safe bicycle facilities downtown NOW.
- The Pike/Pine corridor needs to go back to the drawing board. The bike lanes on Pine are not cutting it.
- The University District needs some serious improvements.
- As the SunBreak points out, streets that got bike lanes do not necessarily show reductions in collisions. However, given that bike lanes significantly increase the number of people biking, they may still represent a decline in the collision rate. But obviously, we need to be thinking bigger and more family-friendly.
- The Burke-Gilman Trail has far fewer collisions along it than I would have thought. Given the thousands of people who use it every day, I would say this map shows that it has a remarkable safety record (though some tricky spots need help)
Lindblom notes that the still-unsolved death of Mike Wang has helped to round up energy for bike facilities with more separation than just one simple painted line.
That tragedy helped discredit the fashionable idea in the 2000s that bikes, provided with lane stripes and icons, can coexist happily with arterial traffic.
A groundswell has formed for more separation. On portions of the Dexter bike route, bus-stop medians separate bikes from traffic. On Broadway, a “cycle track” will be separated by curbs, bollards or stripes as part of the future First Hill Streetcar installation […]
Neighborhood advocates and the city are designing greenways, where plantings, curbs and a 20-mph speed limit would encourage bikes and pedestrians to take side streets, starting in Wallingford this year.
He also notes that downtown has no family-friendly bike facilities, though they could be included in this year’s Bicycle Master Plan update:
But the supply of road space here is tighter than in most U.S. cities, and getting inexorably more crowded through population growth, road projects and office campuses — including maybe a third Sodo sports complex coming mid-decade. Downtown lacks even one north-south bikeway safe for novice or nonathletic riders. The city doesn’t have any major bike projects downtown this year, but will consider ideas in a pending update of the cycling master plan.
Protected bikeways will help, “but intersections are where the crashes are,” says Mauro. “We need more than just separation, we need signalization.”
Meanwhile, Portland reports an astounding 61 percent jump in just one year (!) on their new neighborhood greenways. People are thirsty for family-friendly bike routes. Let’s make it happen.