Cyclists are happy to see more or less any bike lanes, but they're happiest if those pathways are protected—that is, separated from traffic, preferably with something sturdy. A few years ago, there was not a single such bike lane in America (just the painted lines type). Now there are a few more: 275 in 78 cities, according to PeopleForBikes, a Boulder-based cyclist group.
PFB recently picked out its 10 favorite completed projects last year and we spoke to Martha Roskowski, vice president of local innovation, about why. Here are the top five choices.
Named top bike lane for 2015, Cambridge's swanky facility on Western Avenue is sidewalk level, several feet from other traffic, and adorned with plenty of trees and planter boxes. It wouldn't be out of place in the Netherlands or Denmark.
"We've moving beyond paint and plastic posts," Roskowski says. "We're seeing more robust facilities like this one. It's a pretty complete reconstruction of the road and it doesn't happen that often. We're excited cities are doing some of the longer-term planning that lets projects like this hit the ground."
This Salt Lake project was chosen because it's a protected intersection as well as a protected lane. It offers additional safety for cyclists. "Protected lanes [sometimes] run along the block and then come to the intersection. You might have a stripe of paint going across but you're back into the chaos at the intersection with turning vehicles," Roskowski says.
Austin, Texas, and Davis, California, also put in protected intersections last year.
Queens Boulevard is notorious in New York City for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. 185 people died on the "the boulevard of death" between 1990 and 2015. The city is putting in $100 million to make it safer, including a big protected bike lane. Roskowski calls the project "simple but effective."
Lincoln's new protected bike lane features rain-garden strips, dedicated bike signal "phasing," and links between regional paths through the university district and downtown. "We like the design and part of it is that we're just delighted that eastern Nebraska is building protected bike lanes," Roskowski says.
Chicago can lay claim to have been busiest in building new bike lanes last year. It has several projects going on at once. "What's neat about Chicago is their commitment to building a network. That's the next frontier: How do you connect one-off corridors into whole low-stress networks?"
It's good to see more and better bike lanes appearing. But, as Roskowski says, America's cities are hardly cycling nirvana just yet.
"It's becoming the norm that if a city is considering a bike lane, there are voices saying, 'Why don't you protect this better?' But 275 [protected bike lanes] in 78 cities is still a tiny drop in the bucket if people are going to bike safely wherever they live," she says.
Slideshow Credits: 01 / Toole Design Group; 06 / Chicago DOT;