Salt Lake City, Utah, has the first protected bike intersection.
Intersections are where most car-bicycle collisions take place, so this year Salt Lake City built one of the nation’s first “protected bike intersections” to make cycling in the Utah capital a lot safer. Based on infrastructure pioneered by the Dutch, Salt Lake City’s protected intersection incorporates four principal safety elements:
•Corner refuge islands: protected curb extensions for bicycles
•Forward stop bars: waiting areas for cyclists in front of car traffic
•Setback bike crossing: a buffer zone between bikes and car traffic
•Bike-friendly signal phasing: special lights to indicate when bikes should cross
The intersection was built in Fall 2015 and is expected to reduce both vehicle crashes and cycling stress levels.
Portland, Oregon, has public transit that includes bicycles.
Portland gets so much right when it comes to safer cycling infrastructure that it’s easy to overlook some of the ways the city has also improved bike commuting by simply making it convenient. Every TriMet bus in the Portland area is equipped with a rack that can carry two bicycles, and the MAX lightrail system is equipped with bike hooks so it’s easy for cyclists with long commutes to go multimodal on their way to the office. Just another reason Portland has the highest percentage of bike commuters of any US city—a number that continues to increase. According to the most recent data from an American Community Survey associated with the 2014 US Census, more than 7 percent of the city’s commuters ride bikes to work, up from 5.9 percent in 2013.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, closed the streets to cars.
Now in its sixth year, Open Streets Minneapolis is a city-sponsored event that closes down major throughways to car traffic and opens them up to every bicycle and pedestrian in the city. The city is already a great place for cycling with its 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street bikeways (as of 2016), but Open Streets events up the ante by letting locals of all ages explore their neighborhoods in complete safety. And explore they do: In 2015, more than 65,000 people attended one or all of the eight Open Streets Minneapolis events held all over the city.
San Francisco, California, secured business support for green lanes.
In 2008, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition launched its Connecting the City campaign to build 100 miles of bike paths and protected bike lanes so anywhere in the city can be accessed by cyclists of all ages and abilities.
Since then they’ve already added miles and miles of protected green lanes and started construction on the city’s first raised bike lane. To win support for the project, the Coalition has partnered with city agencies and local business leaders to build an inarguable case that better bike infrastructure equals increased revenue. After all, cyclists stop and shop more and support smaller businesses than drivers. The organization’s work at both the grassroots and City Hall levels has ensured the ambitious Connecting the City project is still rolling right along.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, launched an accessible bike share program.
Studies show that cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are on the road, and nothing puts more new cyclists on the road than bike shares. Bike share systems have already proven successful in cities all over the US; Philadelphia’s Indego bike share might be a newcomer, having joined the fray in 2015, but it’s still significant: The company is the only bike share operator that allows users to buy memberships with cash, making the bikes more accessible to lower-income users. So far Indego’s been a safe gamble: Bike theft hasn’t been a problem, and within its first 100 days in operation, Indego saw more than 180,000 rides. The company will continue to add more stations and bikes in 2017.
Washington, DC, put more funds toward bike projects.
Why does DC feel like such a safe place to ride? Probably because the city has actually pumped funding into making it a safe place to ride. The capital city spends more money per capita on bike and pedestrian projects than any other major top cycling city, and the effort shows in all the bike paths and protected bike lanes that are popping up to connect every part of the city, thanks to the hard work of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and other advocates. The city’s 2013 transportation master plan pledges to add 70 more miles of protected bike lanes.
New York City, New York, expanded protected bike lanes.
New York City already has more than 385 miles of protected bike lanes and paths throughout all five boroughs, with big plans to install many more on an annual basis. Reports from the city’s Department of Transportation show the lanes are improving safety not just for cyclists, but also for pedestrians and car occupants. On Columbus Avenue, a protected bike lane spurred a 56-percent increase in cycling on weekdays and saw a 34-percent decrease in overall crashes while vehicle traffic flow has remained steady. The report also shows that retail sales along the protected lane corridor have increased compared to surrounding streets, proving once again that bikes are big business.
Chicago, Illinois, advocated for the suburbs.
Last year, Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago’s bike and pedestrian advocacy group, launched the Family Friendly Bikeways Campaign to bring protected bike lanes and infrastructure to the suburbs and outerlying areas of the city, where cycling for transportation is often least accessible. With this effort, the organization focuses on kids and more vulnerable cyclists—and not just the fast, experienced cyclists often first served by bike programs. This kind of project could make a huge impact on the city as a whole by expanding transportation cycling beyond the urban core. Expect to see more bike lanes, trails, and low-traffic bike boulevards in the greater Chicago Metro area as the project proceeds.