How to Increase Bicycling for Daily Travel

Source: Active Living Research

Bicycling is healthy: it increases physical activity, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces obesity and disease. Bicycling also can be an excellent mode of transportation for people of all ages. In fact, bicycling to school has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness and overall health among children and adolescents. As with virtually any kind of sport or physical activity, bicycling poses some risk of injury, but recent studies show that the health benefits of bicycling far exceed the health risks. Moreover, as bicycling levels increase, injury rates fall, making bicycling safer and providing even larger net health benefits.

This brief summarizes the available evidence about strategies for increasing bicycling levels, including on-street bike lanes, off-street bike paths, and other bicycling infrastructure and educational programs, and offers related policy implications.

Research shows that infrastructure, programs, and policies that support bicycling can significantly increase levels of bicycling for daily travel. To maximize bicycling opportunities, cities must build a network of safe and comfortable routes using a mix of bike lanes, bike boulevards, cycle tracks, and bike paths that connect residents to potential destinations. Infrastructure that maximizes the separation between bicyclists and motor vehicles, without making bicyclists travel too far out of their way, may be more effective for encouraging new bicyclists than on-street pavement markings. Investments in infrastructure should be supported by promotional programs, such as bike-to-work days and bicycle training, Safe Routes to School programs, and other programs that facilitate bicycling, including bike sharing systems and those that accommodate bicycles on buses and trains. Policies that make driving more expensive (e.g. higher gasoline taxes and parking fees) and less convenient (e.g. reduced parking supply and reduced speeds) may be necessary to maximize the effectiveness of infrastructure investments in encouraging bicycling. To encourage bicycling as a mode of transportation, communities also must implement land use and development policies to help ensure that destinations for daily needs, such as school, work, and shopping, are within convenient bicycling distance from home.

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