The Problem: In the fall of 1967 the first bike lanes in the U.S. were built on Sycamore Lane and 8th Street in Davis California. Today Davis is known as “The Bicycle Capital of America” but driving has changed and bike lanes have not. Bicycle lanes today are not only outdated they are dangerous. Half of the average bike lane places riders at high risk due to careless drivers invading bike lanes. Much of this is due to in-car distractions such as the notorious cell phone, eating in the car and using other electronic devices while driving. Added dangers are created by wide loads such as landscape trailers dual wheeled trucks and wide footprint vehicles. The public bus system is also a constant danger to cyclist. Buses naturally stress traffic lanes and bike lanes. All of these impacts represent changes in Americas transportation and driving habits. Each change has created a new and dangerous environment for cyclist nationwide.
Consider these cycling facts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: The number of estimated bicyclist injuries climbed to 49,000 in 2012, up from 48,000 in 2011. Injuries have hovered around 50,000 in recent years with 52,000 injuries in 2008, 51,000 in 2009, and 52,000 again in 2010.
Quick Facts ◾ Bicyclist deaths in 2001: 732 ◾ Bicyclist deaths in 2012: 726 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts) ◾ Reduction in bicyclist deaths between 2001 and 2011: 7.5 percent ◾ Bicyclist injuries in 2001: 45,000 ◾ Bicyclist injuries in 2012: 49,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts) ◾ Increase in bicyclist injuries between 2001 and 2011: 8.9 percent ◾ The total cost of bicyclist injury and death is over $4 billion per year (National Safety Council).
Is bicycling more dangerous than other modes of travel?
With 726 deaths per year, there are risks associated with riding a bicycle. Bicycle fatalities represent less than two percent of all traffic fatalities, and yet bicycle trips account for only one percent of all trips in the United States. However, bicycling remains a healthful, inherently safe activity for tens of millions of people every year.
Bicyclists seem to be over-represented in the crash data, but, there is no reliable source of exposure data as we don't know how many miles bicyclists travel each year, and we don't know how long it takes them to cover those miles (and thus how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic). Risk based on exposure varies by time of day (with night time being more risky), experience level of rider, location of riding, alcohol use, and many other factors. We can see from these statistics that marked bike lanes may be a help, but they are far from a solution. The key to lasting and positive change is enabling the public to alter dangerous habits. The color green places a focus on behavioral awareness - it's a color that loudly says GO. Activities involving public safety have been typically placed on the shoulders of police departments, and have relied on "after the fact" enforcement. Over time police departments have experienced reduced budgets, and limited resources to enforce bike lane infractions. The Green Line method changes this cycle and places part of the responsibility for safety on the cyclist. Cyclist must play a part in protecting themselves if a true car bicycle environment is to be created.
The Solution: The Green Line is a painted green marker line that runs down the center of the typical bike lane. Riding slightly to the right of the Green Line will assure cyclist a greater margin of safety. The Green Line will break and turn yellow at intersecting driveways. These breaks are an effective alert in areas such as strip malls and areas that encounter constant ingress and egress. Effective safety systems should always help alert the cyclist to potential traffic dangers, current bike lanes lack that feature. Cyclist will change behaviors when directed to Green Lined bike lanes. The Green Line represents a super safety zone when added to any existing bike lane.
The Green Line Vision Zero App: The Green Line with Vision Zero Plus was inspired by over 40 years of cycling on urban streets. Streets In major cities have become increasingly dangerous with the advent of numerous distraction devices. In addition larger vehicles like SUV's have emerged as a preferred choice over the station wagon. As a victim of six bicycle, car, and pedestrian events change is need to improve safety.
Bicycle riders and drivers have become advisories in the battle for roadway real estate. In some cases driver cyclist encounters have resulted in threats, injury's, and even death. My study of bike lanes started many years ago when I noticed inconsistencies in uniformity of local bike lanes. Lanes in many areas were narrow and not properly marked. On the other hand isolated less traveled bike lanes were well marked but narrow. The most notable inconsistency is the disappearing bike lane, these lanes disappear and place riders in the line of traffic without warning. These conditions have resulted in underutilization reversing the original intent of bike lanes. In each case bike safety was being compromised.
Technology can play a part, but I have observed a need for change in cyclist behavior. The typical cell phone App can be a major form of distraction, and should not be associated with any behind the wheel or behind the handlebar activity. The target user of the Vision Zero Plus App is the cyclist, but the App is not used as the typical phone application. A case can be made for an overabundance of Apps resulting in more being deleted than downloaded.
The best way to describe the functionality of Vision Zero Plus is "set it and forget it". The App allows the user to receive emailed safety risk reports on routes predestinated by the user. This allows the user to reduce risk based on periodic data feedback. If the route becomes increasingly dangerous the user can seek another route with a lower risk. Reporting potential risk to local law enforcement can also be accomplished using Vision Zero Plus. Depending on government policy local law enforcement can also expose other dangers along the selected route including bike theft and strong arm robberies and even homicides to name a few.
The Green Line is also a predictive approach where a problem is addressed before a tragedy occurs. Dangers are constantly put into visual focus for bike riders. Breaks in the Green Line are alerts to a change in safety levels previously not considered by the cyclist. Green Line routes can be viewed and proposed using the Vision Zero Plus notification feature. Users can also outline personal high frequency routes to locate real time dangers using custom reports delivered by way of email alerts.
For example a common route with a high frequency of cyclist usage indicates a high volume of traffic incidents. Using the weekly reporting feature the spike in events will be delivered by email. The will arrive in the form of a report to the users email account. Upon viewing this report the user can then alter their route to avoid the risk. Also, these same alerts can be helpful in determining new Green Line routes for traffic safety professionals. My goal with is to create a process that incorporates technology, with a visual guide for cyclist that is capable of saving lives.
Why The Green Line is not for every roadway: The Green Line is a system targeted at high volume roadways. The sheer volume to traffic make the road ways a prime target for added safety measures. The volume of bicycle events occur at 25% of the intersection in most cities. This leaves 75% of the road surface as non-Green Line bike lanes. These routes fall into several categories such as, green ways, parks, nature preserves, and underutilized bike paths. These are areas that typically will not encounter the typical car bike challenges and are considered low risk areas.
Green Line Law Enforcement: Strict fines should be enacted to bring driver bike lane infractions to a new and higher level. HOV lanes and disabled parking zones generate fines in excess of $250. Each of these violations have no direct impact on saving lives. Invading bike lane is a gross public safety violation that could result in death. Encroaching a bike lane should carry a fine equal to other traffic infractions that put lives at risk.