Are Bike Lanes Bad for Bikers?

Bike lanes improve congestion by confining slower-moving traffic to specific parts of the road. And they encourage rookie cyclists to give commuting via bicycle a shot. They get more bikes on the road which spurs a self-reinforcing cycle. If bike lanes means more bikers, and more bikers means more bikers, than a few more bike lanes creates an exponential jump in the number of bikers. Follow?

But what if bike lanes are bad for our health? As a city bicycle commuter, I’m subjected to more-than-my-fair-share of pollution, as car exhaust tends to stay near the road. And cyclists, who are exerting themselves more than a pedestrian, breathe in more polluted air.

Enter the new buffered bike lanes on Pine and Spruce streets in Center City Philadelphia. An entire lane of a two lane street was given over to bicycle traffic – a third of the lane is a buffer, and the remaining two-thirds is for just bikes.

In theory, cars may start avoiding these bike laned streets when they realize the surrounding roads have less bike traffic and move quicker. In practice, the car lane is often packed of idling cars, which produces more toxic fumes than a moving car. Although it appears as though the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risk of pollutant ingestion, it seems especially dangerous to speed by an unusually high number of idle cars and trucks.

Idle cars produce emissions that have been found to negatively affect respiratory health. Vehicle exhaust also contributes to unhealthy air quality and the presence of smog. These factors have resulted in ailments like asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and even premature death. {greg hall}.

I support bike lanes, but research into the health effects of lanes like the new ones in Philly must be conducted.

Related: Awesome new bicycle shirt color combo – black on a gray track shirt {b minus}.