Bike Lanes in Planning Magazine

Do you feel safe riding your bike in the street? I don’t. But cities across the nation are improving on-street bicycling. An article in the May/June issue of Planning Magazine traces the trends. An excerpt…

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Sometimes I take my son to preschool by bicycle. It’s about a mile round-trip, and there are no trails between my house and our destination. I ride in the street until I reach a highway intersection; then I switch to a sidewalk and pedestrian crosswalk. Two more blocks on a busy unmarked roadway and I turn onto a bicycle lane leading to the preschool.I’m always on the lookout for opening doors and cars making right turns in front of me.

On the way home after school, part of the trip involves a new bicycle lane on a wide concrete gutter integrated with the curb. The city banished parking along one side of this street just last year and striped lanes in each direction all the way to my street (this is part of a cross-city bicycle boulevard). A few blocks short of my street, I merge with traffic crossing the highway and pedal as fast as I can, my son usually whooping with glee at the sudden speed. At my street, I turn left, ride the quiet roadway to my alley, and park the bike back in the garage.

It’s lucky for me that most of this route is quite bicycle-friendly. The bicycle lanes help, but I admit that I don’t feel completely safe, especially when the trailer is full of preschooler. This bike trip occurs once or twice a week, and only in good weather.

Roger Geller, the bicycle coordinator in Portland, Oregon, would call me an “interested but concerned” bicyclist. This is the third in a continuum of types that range from “the strong and the fearless” to “the enthused and the confident” to me to “no way no how.”

Bicyclists like me are the sweet spot for bicycle planners like Geller. He says they (we) constitute about three-fifths of the total population and, if convinced to bicycle regularly, could transform transportation in the U.S. (as in Europe). Portland’s city traffic engineer, Rob Burchfield, puts the group in context: Potential bicyclists want bicycle facilities with fewer cars or with greater separation from motor vehicles.

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You can check out the entire special transportation issue here (but you’ll have to create a log-in to read the articles).

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