5 ways biking is getting better in the U.S. (and one way it's not)

Last week the Alliance for Biking and Walking released its 2014 Benchmarking Report. Chock full of tidbits about biking and walking in the U.S., the report shines a light on what's good, and not so good, in biking. As May is coming up and it is National Bike Safety Month, maybe it's a good time to take a moment and reflect on what's good about biking right now. That's not to say there isn't more to improve (isn't there always?) but with biking, we've definitely come a long way.

1) More people are biking in big cities than ever before.

Bike commuting in large cities is increasing - from 4.5% of all commutes in 2005 - 2006 to 5% of commutes by 2012.

2) Safety in numbers continues to be true.

The safety in numbers theory holds that the more people bike, the safer it is. That's because car drivers interact better with cyclists when they are used to seeing them on the roads. The stats continue to suggest that the higher the percentage of people biking to work, the smaller the number of cyclist fatalities.

3) More protected bike lanes.

People for Bikes is the organization dedicated to getting more protected bike lanes (sometimes called cycle tracks) on U.S. city streets. They've helped nearly a dozen cities with a protected lane boot camp and now at least 60 U.S. cities are building the lanes - 142 miles of lanes nationwide. Washington DC's two oldest protected lanes saw a 371% surge in ridership since April 2010.

4) More sharing!

Bike sharing has its problems - mainly economic - yet it continues to hop from city to city, and is now turning up in U.S. cities where you might not expect it - like Nashville, Tennessee and Indianapolis. China still leads with the biggest bike share programs, but in Chicago, New York, and Washington DC, bike sharing has become part of the transportation fabric of the cities.

5) More variety.

From cargo bikes to tall bikes to the number of biking options for families, the market for bicycles has gotten more diverse, and the products to support cyclists of all kinds more numerous. There's a support group for every type of transportation cyclist, and books and blogs and lots of free advice on how to bike the way you want to bike.

And now, the not-so-bright side.

While biking is increasing, and that should mean more safety in numbers, a recent uptick in cyclist fatalities is not encouraging. Though fatalities have fallen steadily - since 1980 - in the years since 2010 the data shows a small uptick for both pedestrian and bike fatalities. In the meantime, 43 states have set goals for reduced fatalities - and Portland, Oregon is one bike-crazy city that managed to have zero cycling deaths in 2013.

Tags: Bike Accessories | Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Bike Sharing | Biking