Throughout the nation, approximately 3.4 million adults frequently ride their bicycles. And while leather bicycle saddles are often key for long-lasting comfort on those rides, there's another factor that can contribute to irritation for cyclists: busy and dangerous roadways.
The reality is that those comfortable bike seats won't do much good if you're forced to ride along congested, hazardous streets. These areas can be both frustrating and treacherous, especially if you're an avid cyclist or use your bicycle to commute to work.
But in Washington, D.C.'s Montgomery County, they've come up with a solution to help cyclists travel more safely. The first-ever Bicycle Stress Map was developed as a tool to help cyclists plan their routes more effectively and to help city planners zero in on areas that need more bike-friendly upgrades.
David Anspacher, a transportation planner for the county, told Curbed, "It's a great way to engage the public and advocate for different biking infrastructure improvements with policy makers."
In designing the map, researchers and city planners studied 3,500 miles of road throughout the county and analyzed them for markers of cyclist stress. Those roadways were then given a grade determined by volume of traffic, number of car lanes, speed limits, and whether or not they had specific bike lanes. The streets were then checked against aerial photos and images from Google Street View for accuracy. After that, they were then color-coded using a "levels of traffic stress" formula, on a spectrum that includes blue (the safest and least stressful), green, yellow, orange, and red (the most dangerous) pathways.
The tool has been so successful since its launch a year ago that the American Planning Association gave the project an award last month. Not only has it helped cyclists stay safer on the road, but it's provided planners with concrete, data-driven evidence as to which streets require the most attention.
While the tool is currently only available in Montgomery County, many cyclists hope similar programs will be adapted throughout the nation. After all, even if you protect your body with a leather bicycle saddle, you'll want to make sure the rest of your ride is free from harm, too.