If you are a bicyclist in Utah, it’s hard not to notice the huge influx of biking lanes in Salt Lake. Many of our busy highways are now outlined with rolling paths of asphalt and dotted with little bicycle icons and signs.  These new lanes continue to branch out from the busy roads, covering more and more of the county.

This increasing trend is not unique to Utah. It’s happening all across the U.S. due in large part to the work of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).  AASHTO is the authority most civil engineers turn to when researching a building project. With their guidelines and stamp of approval, dozens of cities have now begun building protected lanes for cyclists.

Creating New Bike Paths

In the past, a very limited number of separated bike lanes existed in the U.S. While drafting the current AASHTO guide in 2009, the organization included a chapter outlining the benefits of protected bike lanes, some of which include increased confidence and protection for cyclists.

Since that time, the U.S. has seen a surge in new bike lanes, with the number of bike lanes more than quadrupling over that five year stretch.

U.S. streets with protected bike lanes bar graph

Courtesy of Green Lane Project inventory

With this greater awareness of bike lanes and their benefits, it’s no wonder that new lanes are constantly being added to roads nationwide. However, the AASHTO continues testing lanes in various cities and updating their information to ensure that the bike lanes are as efficient and safe as possible. Having bike lanes approved by the organization adds another level of validity and allows the project to grow even more.

Creating Safer Roads

The AASHTO guide gives painstakingly specific information about bike lane construction. For example, it states, “for roadways with no curb and gutter, the minimum width of a bike lane should be 1.2 m (4 feet)… where parking is permitted but a parking stripe or stalls are not utilized, the shared area should be a minimum of 3.3 m (11 feet) without a curb face and 3.6 m (12 feet) adjacent to a curb face.”

Clearly, the organization has done some pretty thorough research.  Every guideline and every measurement has a specific purpose: to improve cyclists’ experiences and safety.

And it’s worked.  A study in 2012 found that streets with biking lanes saw 90 percent fewer injuries per mile than streets without biking lanes.  In Washington D.C., nine out of ten bicyclists who use the new bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue said they felt safer with the new lane. But, bicyclists are not the only ones reaping the benefits.  One New York City protected bike paths saw a 56 percent decrease in injuries for all users, including pedestrians. (peopleforbikes.org).

Using all resources currently available, the AASHTO has undoubtedly raised the bar for cities’ road designs. As a result, other cities and publications followed suit and quickly endorsed the idea of protected bike lanes. Last year some states even went so far as to hire the AASHTO to write a state-specific engineering manual about protected bike lanes. Many other states are also performing independent research on bike accommodation.

If an Accident Happens

Until these protected bike lanes are available in all areas, and even after they become more common, we will continue to provide resources fro cyclists who are injured in accidents. If you are hurt, you have rights and should be treated fairly. We want to give you the chance to heal without worrying about the financial burden or losing out on the chance to participate in the sport you love. If you have questions or you have been injured, please contact us to discuss your situation. You can call our off at (801)506-0800 or visit our main page to fill out the free consultation form. Let Christensen & Hymas help you after you bicycle accidents.