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Do bicyclists cause traffic congestion?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2022 | Bicycle Accidents |

Bicyclists are extremely vulnerable when clashes arise with motorists on Seattle city streets. Motor vehicle drivers often get frustrated when they believe bike riders keep them from going faster. However, a recent study disproves the notion that bikes cause traffic congestion.

Portland has some of the most-crowded streets in the nation. So, researchers at Portland State University looked at traffic levels on lower-speed city roadways without bike lanes and found car speeds were impacted by one mph or less when vehicles shared the road with cyclists.

The study cites these reasons for refuting a popular myth

While some motorists may be temporarily forced to slow down to allow for cyclists, the PSU study says the overall impact is negligible for several reasons. These include:

  • More bikes on the road usually translate to fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion
  • Cyclists generally travel at or near posted speed limits on downhill slopes
  • E-bikes are power-assisted, allowing riders to maintain reasonable speeds

The study looked at six different low-impact, low-speed roadways at various times of day, including during rush hour. Researchers plan to expand their efforts and include other types of roads and traffic volumes. They will also look at other variables related to bicyclists interacting with motorists.

The results show bikes and cars can co-exist

While the best option for Seattle and other cities with a significant number of bicyclists is adding separate, protected bike lanes, it’s not always feasible. The study’s authors say they hope the data convinces policymakers that shared roadways remain a viable option.