Let’s do Better than Bike Lanes

Bicycle

In North America bike lanes are afterthoughts slapped on infrastructure meant for heavy metal objects that kill people and the planet. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the conversation from supporting large single occupant vehicles to supporting solutions to move large groups of people safely through our cities. In the 20th century car manufacturers spent lots of money to convince people that everyone needs a car and that “smart cities” would be built around the car and not people. Today we need to do the opposite and spend time and money convincing everyone that cities should be for people and not cars – and we can do it!

Cars and trucks get billions in federal, state, and local money. Governments can mindlessly belch out vast sums for highway widenings—see the $1.6 billion spent on a single-lane addition to the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, even though we’ve known for years that it would not make a dent in travel times. With all this money seemingly available for car infrastructure, some of which is absolutely useless or makes traffic worse, there’s only a pittance devoted to robust bike networks. Why?

Let’s dare to design something that can actually make a difference and imagine micromobility infrastructure that goes beyond bike lanes and that leapfrogs piecemeal local approaches. Let’s create a blueprint that can have real, lasting impact, to excite the masses, bring together many groups, companies, special interests, and demographics, create real mode shifts, and actually make a real difference in pollution, climate, and car deaths.

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Toronto’s Bloor Bike Lanes Boost Local Businesses

Bicycle

Despite being only 2.4 kilometres long the bike lane on Bloor street in Toronto was heavily contested. It was debated in local politics for decades and was only declared permanent recently. During the debate car drivers demanded the “right” to occupy land at the expense of others while maintaining an unhealthy and dangerous urban design. Thankfully, city councillors chose the safer bike-friendly design. Businesses argued that their customers drive to their stores and that due to the bike lane their business will fail. Thankfully this was incorrect. A study released last week revealed that, like everywhere else, bike lanes actually bring more money to small businesses.

Problem, research strategy, and findings:
Bike lane projects on retail streets have proved contentious among merchant associations in North America, especially when they reduce on-street parking. A limited but growing number of studies, however, detect neutral to positive consequences for merchants following bike lane implementation. In 2016, the City of Toronto (Canada) removed 136 on-street parking spots and installed a pilot bike lane on a stretch of Bloor Street, a downtown retail corridor. Using a case–control and pre–post design, we surveyed merchants and shoppers to understand the impacts of the bike lanes on economic activities. We find no negative economic impacts associated with the bike lanes: Monthly cus- tomer spending and number of customers served by merchants both increased on Bloor Street during
the pilot.
Takeaway for practice: Our findings are consistent with an improving economic environment at the inter- vention site. Downtown retail strips may therefore be suited to tolerate bike lanes and even benefit from increased retail activity. Pre and post surveys can provide valuable insights into local economic impacts of streetscape changes affecting merchants along city streets, especially where access to sales data
is limited.

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Providing Bike Lanes is Better than Providing Parking

In North America riding a bicycle in the cities built for cars can be stressful. Because these cities are designed for cars it’s hard to get anywhere quickly and New York witnessed this first hand. Instead of adding more vehicle lanes and continuing the problem they decided to remove parking and add bike lanes. As a result they saw fewer crashes on their streets while increasing economic activity. Plus, in New York the bike lanes allowed car traffic to floe better because the streets also permitted safer turning.

Here’s the description of the video above:

When Janette Sadik-Khan was hired as chief transportation official for New York City in 2007, she took a page out of Denmark’s playbook and created America’s first parking-protected bike lane, right in the middle of downtown Manhattan.

A parking protected bike lane created a buffer between the traffic of cars, trucks and buses and cyclists. But it also eliminated parking spots.

The protected lanes didn’t just make the streets safer for those on bikes; they also improved traffic flow for vehicles and spurred increased retail sales for businesses nearby.

Doctors Love Bike Lanes

The new Canadian organization, Doctors for Safe Cycling, clearly loves bicycles. Based on their name alone you would think that they advocate for better bicycling infrastructure for cyclists, but they argue that bike lanes are good for everyone. Indeed, regular readers of good news already know that bike lanes make cities better, healthier, places. Maybe your doctor will soon be prescribing you a bicycle to commute on!

Cycling is beneficial to many aspects of health. A study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal in April 2017 showed some remarkable outcomes: people who cycle to work have a much lower risk of getting heart disease (by 50 per cent), of getting cancer ( by 40 per cent) and of dying of any cause ( by 40 per cent). Other studies have reached similar conclusions.

Of course the benefits are not restricted to cyclists themselves. As we move folks from four wheels to two we also improve air quality and tackle climate change – which is a boon to everyone.

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Bike Lanes are Good for Everybody

Urban

Bike lanes are amazing! They give users of the roads an area which protects emission-free bicycle riding. They bring local business lots of profits and they improve towns. Bike lanes are almost a panacea to the plight of current urban planning in North America. Indeed, bike lanes are even great for car drivers – the very class of road users that usually throw shade on bicycling.

Myriad factors contribute to livability but I can tell you from experience one of the things that makes a city great, is the ability to get around without driving. Walking streets, promenades, bike paths and great public transportation create a healthier, more active, more affordable and environmentally friendly city for everyone.

In cities such as Adelaide, Copenhagen and Amsterdam a focus on providing safer and more efficient solutions for pedestrians and cyclists has lead to their cities being heralded for happiness and quality of life.

Another reason I’m a fan of bike lanes as a driver is because I’m afraid of hitting one, and bike lanes provide a clear boundary between where my car should be, and where my friends on two wheels should be.

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