It's Bike to Work Day! Here in DC 14,000 people signed up to participate, and volunteers staffed 72 pit stops to offer refreshments and prizes to cyclists. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of DC residents who commute by bike jumped from 5,667 to 9,669 (accounting for 2% of commuters in 2006 and 3.15% in 2011). Figures from other cities are available on this map from GOVERNING.
It's not surprising that more DC commuters are biking, because over the past few years the city has made substantial investments in bicycling infrastructure. Our Capital Bikeshare system keeps expanding, and our District Department of Transportation has created 56 miles of marked bike lanes and installed 2,300 bike parking racks in recent years.
Investing in making bicycling safer and easier gets results: The League of American Bicyclists identified Bicycle Friendly Communities and found that the bike commuting rate has risen 80% in the largest of these communities, compared to 47% nationwide. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County by County blog draws an even clearer line between cycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements and public health, noting, "Research shows that cycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements such as bicycle lanes, bicycle racks, bicycle/walking trails, and shared bicycle programs promote physical activity.
Riding a bike is a great way to get some exercise while saving money on transportation. Still, cycling isn't as safe as it could be. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2011, 677 cyclists were killed and another 48,000 injured in traffic crashes. Drivers and cyclists both need to be aware of one another and follow the rules, and infrastructure that physically separates bike lanes from traffic lanes can also be helpful. Enforcement is also essential, as many cyclists frustrated by U-turning drivers on DC's Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes can attest.
The Department of Transportation's Share the Road Safely website has tips for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Keep your fellow road users in mind as you make your way home tonight!