In February, Boise Weekly published an in-depth investigation into the efficacy of Boise's safe passing distance law, which mandates that motorists must allow at least three feet of distance when passing cyclists. The general thrust of the article was that safety—for both cyclists and motorists—is better achieved through a focus on building bike lanes and paths than by passing laws so difficult to enforce that they have little hope of changing behavior.
Well, a new study in the Washington Post confirms that idea.
From the article:
In a new study in the journal Transport Policy, Ralph Buehler and John Pucher suggest that cities might actually be able to influence how many cyclists are on the road. Perhaps all they have to do is—and this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise—build more bike lanes and bike paths.
Buehler and Pucher found that the presence of off-road bike paths and on-street bike lanes were, by far, the biggest determinant of cycling rates in cities. And that’s true even after you control for a variety of other factors like how hot or cold a city is, how much rain falls, how dense the city is, how high gas prices are, the type of people that live there, or how safe it is to cycle. None of those things seem to matter quite as much. The results, the authors write, “are consistent with the hypothesis that bike lanes and bike paths encourage cycling.”
The study also lists Boise as one of the top cities for bike commuting in the country—with 3.4 percent of the population commuting by bike—which ranks us fourth, behind Minneapolis, Minn.; Madison, Wis.; and our ancient enemy, Portland, Ore.