Sunday, June 16, 2024

Bicyclists cross paths April 13, 2022, in North Cambridge. (Photo: Marc Levy)

An opponent of the bike-lane network being installed citywide released an analysis Monday saying the lanes have caused injuries to increase, with “2.5 times more cyclists and 3.5 times [more] motorist injuries” occurring on three street segments where separated bike lanes were installed.

The 14-page analysis uses publicly available police crash data, and “if anything, we’re undercounting injuries,” author John Hanratty said.

It looks at 1.3 miles of protected bike lanes, where bicyclists are separated from car traffic by plastic flex-posts and other means. On those stretches, there were 19 more injuries from before Covid to after installation in 2022, or a 158 percent increase, the report says, resulting in what Hanratty called “a limp or having to go to the hospital.”

Hanratty was part of a group called Cambridge Streets for All that filed a lawsuit last summer over the loss of parking space from the Cycling Safety Ordinance of 2019, which calls for 22.6 miles of bike lanes citywide. That lawsuit was rejected by a judge on March 27, but is being appealed. Other members of that group were on a closed call explaining the analysis, including Joan Pickett and John Pitkin, a former member of chair of the city’s Board of Traffic and Parking.

The report was sent Thursday to the City Council and Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, the group said. A call was placed Monday to the department to see whether the report had been received and if officials there had comment, but there was no immediate reply. This report may be updated with staff or City Council comment.

Though his field is business consulting, Hanratty said he “went to three or four experts” who approved of his analysis, and that the results were consistent with those in other cities such as Denver – that separated bike lanes led to more injuries.

Bike advocates were contacted Monday and asked if they were aware of the findings. “It’s hard to directly evaluate this lengthy report without looking into the details of the data analysis further. However, its conclusions are at odds with professional consensus,” said Nate Fillmore, a co-founder of the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group.

“Of relevance, the Federal Highway Administration just released a report on the safety of protected bike lanes” that included Cambridge and found that “quick-build” lanes such as those in use in Cambridge “cut the risk of crash in half compared to regular bike lanes,” Fillmore said. Denver is also included, according to a technical summary of the February report.

That work was “conducted by professionals experienced with the data sources and methodology needed to correctly conduct a study of this sort,” Fillmore said, while he had concerns that the Cambridge Streets for All group was “amateurs with an agenda.”

The group said it welcomed feedback from the council and city transportation officials. Pickett encouraged councillors to “do their own analysis” and said there could be a moratorium on bike lanes “until they get a chance to look at what’s going on.”

People that “probably shouldn’t be biking are being coaxed” into using the lanes and putting themselves at risk, Hanratty said, and the group believes that a Cycling Safety Ordinance should pay more attention to safety. “We don’t want people to get hurt unnecessarily.”