1) More roads mean less traffic.
Perhaps the oldest traffic myth is that building more roads will lead to less congestion. This is a logical belief, because, for instance, if there are 200 cars packed into a highway lane, then building a second lane should mean there’s 100 cars in each. The problem, as researchers have found, is that when this new lane gets added, the amount of cars changes as well. In fact, people who stopped driving out of frustration with traffic now return to driving. Experts call this “induced demand,” which means that building more roads eventually, if not immediately, leads to more traffic, not less.
2) More public transit means less traffic.
Public officials often promise that public transit system will relieve congested roads. However, this belief is misguided. While residents will indeed leave their cars at home and take the bus or metro, others will see this new space on the road and fill it. A 2015 analysis of a rail line in Los Angeles, for example, found no change in travel times along nearby Interstate 10. However, transit is still an important part of the ultimate traffic solution: congestion fees.
3) Bike lanes make traffic worse
Bike lanes are sometimes blamed for increasing car traffic. One common anti-bike argument holds that converting road space into a bike lane is bad for traffic. However, when good design has been implemented, that isn’t the case. New York City, for instance, proved this recently with bike lanes installed on Columbus and Eighth avenues. By decreasing car lanes from 12 feet wide to 10 feet wide and adding protected left turns, NYC was able to preserve vehicle volume by 35 percent and lower travel times by 14 percent.
4) Widening roads makes them safer.
A common perception holds that the wider road is a safer design, since it gives drivers more room to maneuver. However, research last year showed that wider lanes invite cars to drive faster and actually lead to more dangerous roads. An analysis of roads in Toronto and Tokyo found lower crash rates in lanes that were closer to 10 feet, as opposed to those that were wider than 12 feet.