People for Bikes launched the Green Lane Project two years ago with the goal of the next big thing in city biking: the protected bike lane. The program’s goals were helping cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. By reducing traffic congestion, greener, unpolluted air was one goal for major cities. Another was to provide commuters a green alternative to travel to and from work in a designated, safe environment in some of America’s largest cities.
Exercise and health were also in the mind of the project designers, and bikers and walkers were anticipated to take advantage of the bikeways. Safe bike paths in some European cities have shown to reduce traffic congestion by at least one-third.
So after, two years, how is the project going? Very successfully, according to latest reports. The ten top cities have just been named. They include a list of the best protected bike lanes of 2013.
Chicago’s Dearborn Street stretches 1.2 miles through on street markings. One noticeable traffic improvement in this area is an increase of stop sign compliance (safety) from 31% to 81% as bike traffic has more than doubled.
Indianapolis’ Cultural Trail (which includes 1.5 lane-miles of on-street protected bikeways) shows how physically beautiful a great on-street bikeway can be and how a first-rate facility can stimulate real estate development nearby. There has been an increase of more than $100 million by the time it officially opened in May.
The half-mile spine of Austin's university district is now one of the country's best examples of a complete street, with pedestrian-friendly shops, bus stops and a first-rate bike facility that connects to other lanes in an integrated network.
Fell and Oak Streets in San Francisco run for just a quarter mile each, but for San Franciscans, these lanes make all the difference for a couplet of much-traveled roads that also serve as crosstown arterials for cars. Removing auto parking here was the key to a low-stress connection between Golden Gate Park and The Wiggle, the old riverbed that is now the city's most popular east-west bikeway.
Other successful bikeways grew in New York City, Atlanta, Seattle, and Memphis.
Big plans are underway for 2014 with Project 2 plans for adding six more focus areas in cities. Applications are now open through which cities can receive a suite of technical, financial and strategic resources, opportunities to network with peers on the development of protected lanes, and national recognition as a leader in the rapidly evolving practice of building better bike lanes. The winning cities will have a combination of political will, committed staff, community support and ambitious plans to implement protected bike lanes during the two-year campaign period of 2014-2015.
The 2013 targeted cities included Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Bikeway leaders in these cities are forming a select partnership of leaders supporting the creation of next-generation protected bike lanes in America. Since the Project launched, green lanes have flourished. In year one of the Project, the number of protected lanes on city streets expanded from 62 to 102. By the end of 2013, the number is expected to double again, to nearly 200.