Bike commuting is on the rise throughout most of the United States, even in the sub-zero temperatures of Milwaukee winters. Yet many communities still have a lot to figure out when it comes to effectively integrating this cheap, healthy transportation mode into their transportation networks. It is important for jurisdictions of all sizes to look for examples in how to do so and better serve their residents.
A recent article coming out of Detroit explores the many points of tension that exist when it comes to installing bike infrastructure, especially in car-centric cities. Ultimately, it is important for officials to demonstrate – prove, really – that bike-friendly development is a positive influence for all communities, and not just the affluent or urban ones.
Embracing bikes, and their associated infrastructure, creates a more mobile community. In denser areas, especially, this can vastly improve people’s access to work and other resources while lower costs and improving health. For example, Arlington Public Schools, in Virginia, has made biking an attractive option for all district employees to get to work by providing simple amenities like safe storage spaces and free bikeshare membership – simple changes that make biking drastically more welcoming as an option.
One important part of adapting to wide-spread bike usage is understanding the many angles from which to view bike safety. It’s more than just cyclists wearing helmets, but also educating drivers, enforcing traffic laws, and creating infrastructure that prevents crashes from happening in the first place. Seattle, Washington, will prove an interesting testing ground for this as they allow for three private bikeshare services to enter the city, an approach some observers think will make biking safer for everybody.
With infrastructure in mind, Portland, Oregon, has just opened a new north-south bikeway, which is the city’s only route oriented in that direction. The 9-mile route includes a number of improvements along previously dangerous roads that now provide an important option for cyclists moving through the city.
For communities still trying to convince skeptics to invest in bike infrastructure, there are cheap, “pop-up” options that can demonstrate the benefits of embracing bikes. Buffalo, New York’s Department of Public Works has partnered with local bike advocacy organization GObike Buffalo to paint temporary bike lanes that demonstrate the need for and benefits of safe biking infrastructure in areas the city most needs it. Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada, has also developed an innovative approach by using adjustable concrete barriers, helping road users to visualize what these changes would look like and alleviate concerns around installing more permanent bike infrastructure.
Even if a city doesn’t encourage “guerrilla tactical urbanism,” when regular citizens take infrastructure matters into their own hands, such as the current trend installing toilet plungers to protect bike lanes, these are important actions that shine a light on where a community most needs improvements to make mobility safer and more accessible.
There are a number of factors that influence safe biking, far beyond painting lanes on the street. Taking these into account to establish this as a safe transportation mode gives people an option – even an opportunity – to get where they need to go, and it’s an affordable way for communities of any size to better connect their residents to the things they need.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Andrew Carpenter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Image Credit: Karen Neoh, Flickr
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