Over the years, a lot has been done throughout the United States to prevent bicycle accidents and improve the safety for riders who share the road with motor vehicles. In Seattle, the efforts to create a safer environment for bicyclists are much more prevalent than in other cities, thanks mostly to the high level of advocacy present throughout the community.
But, as usual, the public funds that are being designated for improving the safety for cyclists leads to another discussion about the “war” between bicyclists and motorists in Seattle.
Bicycle Accidents on the Rise
Seattle is one of the most progressive cities in the country when it comes to bicycle safety and efforts aimed at preventing bicycle accidents. For example, Washington State dedicated approximately $18 million for safety programs and initiatives for cyclists between 2007 and 2009.
The attention paid to rider safety and transportation efficiency in the city and the state as a whole can be attributed to the growth in ridership over the years. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists recently ranked Washington State as the most bicycle-friendly state in the country.
But as we have seen, the rapid growth in the number of riders has presented Seattle with a challenging question; how do we best accommodate the increase in bicyclists in terms of safety and preventing bicycle accidents?
There’s no question that the increased number of riders has put the safety of everyone sharing the road in jeopardy. According to data from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), there were more than 1,800 reported bicycle accidents in the city between the years of 2007 and 2011. Since experts believe a large number of injuries from bicycle accidents are unreported, it is estimated that the true number of these collisions is much larger.
Benefits of Bike Tracks
According to public data, the city has spent $35 million on the planning, design and implementation of bicycle lanes over the past five years. Establishing separate lanes for bicyclists has definitely improved the level of safety in the community for cyclists and reducing the risk of bicycle accidents. The biggest drawback with bicycle lanes, however, is the lack of actual physical protection that it provides.
To combat this problem, the city has committed to investing $5 million to build “bike tracks,” which are like smaller medians that divide the regular road for motorists from the bike lanes. Bike tracks have already been implemented in other cyclist-heavy cities and have proven to prevent the injuries and fatalities that often result from bicycle accidents.
“Cities from New York to Chicago to Portland have been building cycling tracks that physically protect people from traffic,” says Craig Benjamin of the Cascade Bicycle Club.
Seattle has already begun implementing a bike track on Linden Avenue in North Seattle, which is nearly completed. The physical barrier would undoubtedly provide a much higher level of physical protection to cyclists and also reduce the risk of bicycle accidents with other motorists. It can be argued that while the primary aim is to protect cyclists from being injured, a physical barrier between the two sides would also benefit motorists as their risk of being involved in a collision would decrease as well.
So what do you think about the proposed plan for bike tracks as a way of the future in bike-friendly cities? Do you think the $5 million investment of taxpayers’ money is worth improving the safety of bicyclists in Seattle and preventing bicycle accidents? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment box below.