Chicago’s cyclists like it with protection, according to a new study on the effectiveness of protected bike lanes.

The report, by Portland State University's National Institute for Transportation and Communities, found that protected bike lanes increase ridership and promote safety.

The study looked at ridership on roads in five cities, including two in Chicago: Milwaukee Avenue and Dearborn Street. It's the first multi-city academic study of protected bike lanes in the U.S., according to the bicycle and transportation news site StreetsBlog.

Overall, the report found that more than 25 percent of cyclists say they are riding more because of the protected bike lanes, and that a protected bike lane increases bicycle traffic by an average of 72 percent in just its first year of existence.

After surveying city residents who live near protected bike lanes about how the lanes affected the desirability of their neighborhoods, the study found that 43 percent said the lanes had increased desirability. Only 14 percent disagreed, saying that bike lanes decreased desirability.

Here are some Chicago-specific findings from the report:

  • About 92 percent of the cyclists who were surveyed at Dearborn Street intersections said they "felt safe" riding through the intersection.
  • The study found cyclists complied with traffic laws 67 to 98 percent of the time in the areas that were studied, and compliance was "lowest in areas with relatively high bike volumes" and intersections with low traffic.
  • Chicago cyclists on the roads studied most commonly disobeyed traffic laws by "jumping" a signal, or starting to travel forward before getting a green light, according to the report.
  • On the Dearborn Street bike path, the city has added some pavement stencils that say "Look Bikes" on the sidewalk to warn pedestrians not to loiter in the bike lane at intersections. The report said a survey of residents in the area found that half of them did not believe the signs were effective.
  • Ridership on Dearborn Street in the Loop increased 171 percent in the year after the protected bike lane was installed in December 2012. Milwaukee Avenue saw just a 21 percent increase in ridership.


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