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Safer Cycling (and Driving ) in Portland

Over at BikePortland, there were some interesting numbers from the PDOT:

“In 2008, there were 140 “traffic injuries” to individuals on bicycles. That’s down from 196 in 2007 and it’s the lowest number since the survey was taken in 1999. The same goes for pedestrian injuries; there were 123 in 2008, down from 191 in 2007. There was also a major drop in the amount of individuals injured while operating an automobile; the survey reports 4,428 injured, compared to 5,429 in 2007.”

This reduction in bicycle fatalities has happened as Portland’s cycling share has increased. This raises all sorts of questions about the dynamics (e.g., safety in numbers, improved facilities bringing more people out), but I was also curious that the number of automobile injuries has also gone down. This could of course be related to the economy (fewer miles being driven), or even a slight reduction in drivers who have shifted to cycles, but I wonder if in some ways the increased presence of bicycles — and perhaps things like roads being narrowed to accommodate lanes — could itself being acting a sort of widespread traffic calming device?

Curious for any thoughts from Portland…

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2008 at 3:06 pm and is filed under Cars, Cyclists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Safer Cycling (and Driving ) in Portland”

  1. Peter Says:

    it’s very well established in bike circles, through research in Australia and other places, that the increased presence of cyclists on the streets increases the safety of cyclists overall. the link is strong, which is why us bike people are often just busy getting more bodies on bikes – it makes us safer, even without real infrastructure.

    the reasons cited for this extra safety seem to be twofold – 1) drivers are more aware of bikers b/c there are just more of them/us, and 2) many drivers are also biking at least some days, so appreciate what it’s like to be on a bike – how scary it is, etc.

  2. Paul Souders Says:

    I’ve been commuting by bike in Portland since 2001. We had several high-profile bicycle commuter deaths last year. Followed closely by several bike/car road-rage type interactions. Which were fanned by sensational local press that hyped a (IMO non-existent) “bikes vs. cars” war.

    Anecdotally, in the past year I’ve noticed a marked increase in bicycle commuter traffic AND motorist courtesy. Pre-2007 scarcely a week would pass that I wouldn’t hear “get off the !@#$ road” from a motorist. Such things haven’t happened to me for months now.

    The Portland economy lags the national economy a little so it’s hard to talk about the economic causes of less driving. Again, anecdotally, when gas topped $4/gal this summer many of my friends and coworkers started commuting by bike, many of them are continuing even into the winter. (It turns out the price of gas is only part of what makes owning a car expensive…)

    We have a vibrant bike economy here which is doing OK (several custom framebuilders, Chris King components, Castelli North America, at least two web-based bike businesses). BikePortland.org (to whom you link) has had many stories in this vein, in fact just today: http://bikeportland.org/2008/12/10/will-bike-economy-coast-in-down-economy/

    I have always wondered to what degree Portland’s bike- and ped-friendliness motivated people to move here. I almost always hear it given as a reason among my transplanted friends. But then that group is self-selecting (they probably wouldn’t be my friends if they weren’t a little like me)

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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