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Do bicycles slow cars down on low speed, low traffic roads?

Do bicycles slow cars down on low speed, low traffic roads?

Frustrated with bikes slowing traffic? New research from Portland State University shows cyclists don’t significantly reduce the speeds of vehicles around them, although it may…

Sunday, Aug 09

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Frustrated with bikes slowing traffic? New research from Portland State University shows cyclists don’t significantly reduce the speeds of vehicles around them, although it may feel like they do.

The researchers say the findings apply to how passenger cars are affected in urban roads without bike lanes, and that the findings apply for New Zealand roads too. Photo: 123RF

While the results may seem counter-intuitive, co-author of the paper, Jaclyn Schaefer, told RNZ’s Sunday Morning it’s likely any hold-up from bikes in traffic feels more significant than it actually is.

"Human perception is a little bit fallible, and there can be a bit of a psychological effect at play when motorists are asked this question – the negative experiences, even if they’re minor, do tend to stand out in our minds a little bit more.

"Based on the data that we studied, those reductions in speed were unlikely to occur."

Schaefer says the study looked at six Portland roads with speed zones less than 40 kilometres per hour, and fewer than 2000 vehicles per day. Data was collected at different times of the day, including peak traffic hours.

"There were plenty of opportunities for a motorist to overtake a cyclist without incurring long distances of slower speeds. Even if we get stuck behind a cyclist for five, ten, 15 seconds, sometimes that perception of time or impediment magnifies in our brains."The researchers collected two sets of speed data; from cars that were driving behind other cars, and cars that were driving behind bicycles. They found: […]

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