Chart of the Day: Bike Lanes vs. No Bike Lanes and Travel Time

Having a plan to “accommodate bikes” isn’t as simple as drawing lines on a map. Often it involves tradeoffs between parking, travel lanes, and sidewalk space. But particularly in places where people will be bicycling, striping bike lanes can actually reduce congestion on the street.

Here’s a neat chart from a 2013 study (via People for Bikes) that models the effects of bicycles on travel time on streets with and without bike lanes:


And here’s another chart, modeling different street designs scenarios:

bike congestion chart

Here’s the takeaway from People For Bikes:

When bicycle use rises but cities don’t add bike lanes to put the new bikers in, traffic congestion actually gets worse.

The study, co-authored by Gosse and his professor Andres Clarens, used a traffic simulation to compare four theoretical two-way, two-lane streets:

A) One where bicycles were 1 percent of traffic (about the level of many U.S. cities) with no bike lanes.

B) One where bicycles were 1 percent of traffic with bike lanes.

C) One where bicycles were 10 percent of traffic (about the level of Eugene, Oregon, or Boulder, Colorado) with no bike lanes.

D) One where bicycles were 10 percent of traffic with bike lanes.

The street with the most congestion? It wasn’t Street A, which represents so many in the United States today.

The most congested street was Street C.

As Andy pointed out earlier this week, Ramsey County is debating whether to stripe bike lanes on Cleveland Avenue in Highland Park right now. To me, the lesson seems to be that ignoring bicyclists (with sharrows, or nothing at all) does not make them go away. In fact, might make traffic even worse…


Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.