Love and bike lanes: how to turn bike lane haters & skeptics into lane lovers

One thing we really love here at ioby are BIKE LANES. Unfortunately, we understand that not everyone feels this way. But, Cupid knows, feelings can change!

That’s why we’re pleased to present the following list of of bike lane benefits, categorized to appeal to skeptics of every stripe. Even if your friend or neighbor thinks they feel meh about bike transportation, they’re sure to feel good about traffic safety, having fun, and saving money! So next time the topic comes up, try talking about bike lanes through one of the lenses below. We bet you’ll get them on board.

ioby’s talking points for turning bike lane haters into lane lovers!

If your skeptic loves… community

“The reason for bikeways is not what they do for bicyclists, but what they do for the whole community,” says Dan Burdin, co-founder of The Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.

Bike lanes help streetscapes feel more orderly by giving everyone their own place: drivers in one lane of the road, cyclists in another, and pedestrians on the sidewalk. Less guesswork means less cause for nerves and conflict all around.

More bike lanes bring more bikes to the street, which brings about other community-centric behaviors. When they’re on bikes instead of in cars, people are more likely to see each other and stop to chat. A higher bike-to-car ratio makes urban streets quieter, bringing peace of mind. And seeing more bikes encourages everyone to get outdoors for something, whether that’s playing in the yard, taking a walk for leisure, or just sitting on the porch.

Bike lanes also make biking safer for riders of all ages—in fact, people over 50 are the nation’s fastest-growing group of new bike recruits! “We’ve found that protected bike lanes are particularly attractive to older Americans, some of whom feel more physically vulnerable biking in traffic,” says Jana Lynott, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at the Public Policy Institute.

What’s more, Jana says: “Even older people who never ride a bike appreciate that protected bike lanes significantly decrease the number of bicyclists they must contend with while walking on sidewalks or driving on streets.”

If your skeptic loves… safer streets

“One of the things we’ve found with bike infrastructure is that it makes streets safer for everyone, not just bicyclists,” says Barbara McCann, director of the Office of Policy Development, Strategic Planning and Performance at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bike lanes can help cure what ails urban streets by…

  • Reducing the frequency of crashes
  • Improving traffic flow through better delineation of vehicle paths
  • Calming traffic by reducing road width, which encourages drivers to slow down
  • Increasing sight distance and turning radius for drivers
  • Reminding drivers that bikes will appear on the street—so they need to look out when turning, speeding, opening doors, etc.
  • Reminding cyclists that they’re “legitimate” road users, too, and should follow the flow of traffic, show courtesy to pedestrians and drivers, etc.
  • Providing a buffer between pedestrians and speeding cars
  • Providing a clearer route for emergency vehicles when car lanes are congested
  • Offering a possible for detour for people in wheelchairs when sidewalks are broken or blocked

If your skeptic loves… justice

“The majority of people who travel on foot, by bike and on public transit in U.S. cities come from low-income, immigrant and/or people of color communities,” says Naomi Doerner, Transportation Equity Program Manager for the City of Seattle, and an ioby board member and project Leader. “Yet the dominant agenda in mobility advocacy is not co-created with leaders from those communities.” Naomi is one of the organizers of The Untokening, a multiracial collective that puts the lived experiences of marginalized communities front and center to address mobility justice and equity.

In a country where life expectancy can be mapped by zip code, it’s clear that “have” and “have not” lines have been drawn around mobility and everything it touches—and they need to be erased. “It’s important to make sure we’re actually connecting communities to the places they want to access,” says Naomi. “Not just putting in more bike lanes and walking paths here and there, but really understanding where people are going and the ways they want to get there.”

Building better bikeways can empower people by giving them more autonomy and choice, and by and increasing mobility for households without cars. Plus, making biking safer for the millions of people of color who bike already could save hundreds of lives per year.

If your skeptic loves… the environment

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for more than a quarter of all greenhouses gas emissions, a close second after electricity.

Bicycles, on the other hand:

  • Run on calories and muscle, not gas or electricity
  • Don’t require toxic batteries or motor oil
  • Take much less energy to make than cars, and produce much less waste
  • Emit zero carbon emissions or other air pollutants
  • Help protect global forests, since less forest land must be cleared for their manufacture than for cars’

In its lifetime, a typical car will spew over a billion cubic yards of polluted air into our atmosphere and scatter an additional 40 pounds of worn tire particles, brake debris, and torn-up road surface in its wake. Yuck! Pit that against swapping a car for a bike on short commutes: using only two wheels generates 2,000 less pounds of carbon every year. Ahhh.

If your skeptic loves… health

Cycling is very effective in promoting good physical and mental health, and it’s precisely infrastructure like protected lanes that makes widespread bike use possible,” say Doctors for Safe Cycling founders Peter Sakuls and Samantha Green. People who bike to work cut their risk of developing heart disease or cancer by almost half.

A recent assessment found that for every $1,300 New York City has invested in building bike lanes, it has generated public health benefits equivalent to one additional year of life for each resident. Even more striking is the Barcelona Institute for Global Health’s estimate that expanding bike networks in Europe could prevent 10,000 premature deaths each year. Wow!

On the bummer statistic side, an estimated 24,000 people die prematurely each year (and a similar number are hospitalized) due to breathing in particulate matter, ozone, and sulphur dioxide, most of which are related to road traffic. Let’s get more cars off the road!

If your skeptic loves… money (making it or saving it!)



Government (aka: taxpayers):

  • Bike lanes are much cheaper to implement than most other road improvements, allowing cities to get more bang for their buck.
  • Bike infrastructure pays off: In 2005, New York City spent $10 million on bike lanes, widening sidewalks, and re-phasing traffic lights to accommodate pedestrians. 10 years later, a Columbia University study estimated the benefits of those changes were worth $230 million. Not bad.

If your skeptic loves… fun

On top of all this, riding a bike is straight-up FUN. The wind in your hair, the sensation of gliding, and the freedom to pedal at your own pace while you explore your world. Bike lanes bring more biking, so who wouldn’t say, “Bring ‘em on!”