Bike lanes need barriers, not just paint

San Francisco is doubling the rate at which the city builds protected bike lanes after several high-profile cyclist deaths.

Cities shouldn’t let their cyclists get run over

May is National Bike Month. Most years, I’ve commemorated the
month with a lighthearted story about the
joys of pedal-propelled travel
, or how
fun it is to ride with kids
. But, as we’ve witnessed so far,
2019 is not most years. This bike month, all I’m thinking about
is how we can get as many people out of cars and into zero-emission
transportation modes, as fast—and as safely—as possible.

Bike month is a good time for mayors to ask themselves tough
questions about why there aren’t more people riding bikes (or
other
small, wheeled devices
) in their cities—especially when
they’ve made such goals part of their
climate commitments
.

The answer is almost always the same: there’s not a safe,
separated network of bike lanes to help get people where they want
to go.

A few weeks ago, bike advocates across the country placed
red
cups along routes
that cities had demarcated as “bike
lanes,” but where even the most experienced cyclists still felt
unsafe. The highly visible red cups—sometimes clear plastic cups
filled with red Gatorade or, in some cases, ripe tomatoes—were
inevitably crushed by vehicles driving too closely to the
lanes.

Venice Boulevard is the connection to the
Expo Line/path and one of the only bike routes across LA. Would you
want your loved ones biking here? We have to
#DemandMore
.
#RedCupProject
pic.twitter.com/umXiqMKIGs

— Rabi Abonour (@rabonour)
April 26, 2019

The idea was attributed to advocate Dave Salovesh, who was

killed by a speeding driver
while riding his bike in
Washington, D.C., in April, on a street that had been slated to
receive safety improvements.

A
recent study
confirms the red cup experiment is necessary:
Drivers pass cyclists about
1.25 feet closer
when they’re in painted bike lanes compared
to streets with no bike infrastructure, according to a study that
examined 18,500 occasions of cars passing bikes on roads.

“We know that vehicles driving closely to cyclists increase
how unsafe people feel when riding bikes, and acts as a strong
barrier to increasing cycling participation,” said study author
Dr. Ben Beck, who conducts emergency and trauma research at Monash
University in Melbourne, Australia. “The focus of on-road cycling
infrastructure needs to be on providing infrastructure that
separates cyclists from motor vehicles by a physical
barrier.”

A white stripe on a road will also not make someone who is
hesitant more likely to ride a bike, which is why some cities have
moved past the idea that “paint is protection.”


#RedCupProject
deployed in this bike lane at school zone
crossing of US 95 in Moscow, Idaho at 7:43 pm. First one
obliterated by a pickup truck at 7:44 pm. pic.twitter.com/LiA64llbai

— Don Kostelec (@KostelecPlan)
April 27, 2019

Cambridge, Massachusetts recently
passed a law
that all streets undergoing construction must add
protected bike lanes. Just this week, legislation was introduced in
both
New York City
and
Washington D.C.
that would make safety improvements mandatory
as well. And in San Francisco, also this week, Mayor London Breed
pledged to build
20 miles of protected lanes
over the next two years, doubling
the current rate.

Many other cities—although few in the U.S.—have already
deemed “sharrows” or painted lanes unacceptable, pledging to
only build what’s called “AAA” bike infrastructure, or
infrastructure for “all
ages and abilities
.” This would mean anyone could ride
anywhere using only protected lanes, separated paths, or quiet
neighborhood streets.

There’s a growing environmental need to increase cycling in
cities: In the past month,
New York City
and
Los Angeles
proposed their own
Green New Deals
, with ambitious plans to eliminate emissions by

shifting large percentages of trips
to walking, biking, and
transit. After the terrifying climate news of the last six months,
air pollution at some of the worst levels in decades, and
pedestrian deaths ticking back up, it’s clear that we don’t
have much time to waste.

That’s why I’m calling for an immediate, actionable plan for
cities to get more people on bikes (and scooters), which will
reduce emissions, improve air quality, and reduce traffic deaths:
Summer lanes. Say it with me: Summer lanes. One more time: Summer
lanes!

Summer lanes is a nationwide, city-led effort to get more
bike-curious people out of their cars and onto zero-emission modes
of transportation. If you prefer to drive, or you need to use a
car, you don’t have to worry—summer lanes won’t change how
you get around. But if you’ve been wanting to try biking, and are
too scared to attempt it, summer lanes are for you!

Imagine a transportation planner designing a
street where the only thing protecting people on bikes from cars
and trucks was a tomato or a paper cup. We’d think that was
ridiculous. And yet planners think nothing of “protecting” bike
lanes with paint.
#demandmore

#RedCupProject
pic.twitter.com/UtVCq6iZZ7

— Doug Gordon (@BrooklynSpoke)
April 26, 2019

How do summer lanes work? It’s easy! To show that cities are
listening to people who want safer places to ride, leaders will
promise to protect their unprotected bike lanes by June 21, the
first day of summer. The only rule is that the summer lanes must
create a network—so in some cases it might require not only
protecting the existing painted lanes, but also connecting gaps in
infrastructure and getting riders to popular destinations.

How to protect these bike lanes by the start of summer is up to
the city. Plastic bollards or “flex posts”
can go up over a weekend
, as some of the recent safety
interventions in San Francisco have shown.

For even more of a statement, cities could simply borrow the
hulking traffic diverters used for construction projects which are
engineered to protect people from cars, and protect an entire
vehicular lane.

Creativity is also encouraged. Vancouver has the
loveliest separated bike infrastructure
I’ve seen—giant
rectangular planters overflowing with greenery that simply cordon
off a lane of traffic. What says summer lanes more than that?

THREAD: got a jump on the
#RedCupProject
and put some biodegradable cups filled with
diluted powerade down on the stretch of somerville ave near the
Porter Square T stop in @CambMA (as
it’s a pretty dangerous area for cyclists) pic.twitter.com/HarZ7scAfs

— density’s child in Chicago 5/6-10 (@drooliet)
April 26, 2019

Why summer? Well, that’s obvious: Nicer weather is more
pleasant for biking and scooting—or any other type of activity
that requires getting around without a climate-controlled vehicle.
Longer days with more sunlight mean safer rides before and after
work. School’s out, which eliminates a lot of peak-hour traffic.
People are on vacation, and
when you’re a tourist you’re more likely to engage with non-car
modes
perceived to be fun.

In addition—and this is a big one—gas prices are
expected to skyrocket
this summer. Instead of forcing residents
into their even pricier fossil-fuel powered cars as a default,
shouldn’t cities be offering an alternative that can help people
save money, improve air quality, and work towards aggressive
climate goals?

Plus, this will be the first summer that a lot of U.S. cities
will have dockless scooters and bikes on their streets—tens of
thousands of new zero-emission vehicles for the sharing. Recent

data from the National Association of City Transportation
Officials
(NACTO) shows that ridership on these modes doubled
the number of trips taken on traditional docked bike share from the
year before. It seems like providing more safe places to ride could
easily raise those ridership figures even higher.

Where should summer lanes go? Transportation leaders need only
search the #RedCupProject
hashtag in their cities to see where advocates are demanding to
make their rides safer and less stressful. But summer lanes could
also be implemented in busy tourist areas, adjacent to parks, or
other places that have higher non-car traffic volumes due to warmer
temperatures.

The experience was visceral. Listening to
the crunch of the cups as they broke under the weight of the
vehicle and seeing the water spilt and saturating the street…the
deaths and injuries must end.
#ReHUMANizeMobility

#VisionZero

#RedCupProject
@D3ATX @D5ATX @D9ATX pic.twitter.com/zKT3fMXzsl

— (@KatieDeolloz)
April 26, 2019

What will summer lanes cost? Please: Summer lanes will save
cities money. Cars kill about as many people as
gun violence
. More people develop chronic health problems from

vehicular emissions
than smoking. Making it safer for people to
ride bikes in your city is an
investment in your city’s public health
.

But my parking! Cities close off a handful of parking spaces for
construction projects and special events all the time and the world
doesn’t end. Plus, in most cases, by simply protecting parts of
streets that have already been marked with lanes, summer lanes
would not necessarily have a major impact on vehicular patterns.
Although—wouldn’t summer lanes be even more amazing if they
did?

There’s a lot of discussion about how dockless-scooter and
bike companies should be responsible for
providing data to cities
. Well, here’s one good reason to
share it. If cities worked closely with these companies to study
micromobility usage patterns, it would be immediately clear which
streets are most in need of summer lanes.

Certain companies like Uber and Lyft can offer even more
insight. In addition to sharing route data from their bike and
scooter fleets, these companies could make recommendations for
where the most ride-hailing pick-ups and drop-offs are occurring.
So cities could see not only where micromobility is being used the
most, they could also show where street parking for cars is less
necessary.

Voila—a super summer lane created, where there wasn’t even a
bike lane before!


#redcupproject
success! Flex posts installed. Thank you
@DDOTDC

#bikedc

#wwdd
⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/RPSXJTW52e

— Mark Sussman ♥️ (@msussmania)
May 8, 2019

As open streets events coast to coast confirm, there’s a

latent demand for more non-car transportation
, and if cities
make it safe, people will ride, even if it’s only temporary. But
there’s also proof that temporary bike lanes can foment
sustained, lasting change. In fact, using pop-up lanes is
encouraged by the advocacy group People for Bikes as part of its
annual
city ratings
to increase ridership. Piloting permanent bike
lane projects with planters and bollards is also recommended by
Smart Growth America, which recently released its list of the
cities with the best
complete streets policies
in the U.S. Plus, more bike
infrastructure can also
boost transit ridership
, something most transportation agencies
would welcome.

If cities can close a handful of streets a few times a year for
fun, why can’t they protect a few lanes to solve a serious
crisis?

But that’s the beauty of summer lanes—if everyone hates it,
or it doesn’t work, fine, cities can say it was just for the
summer. Come fall, the lanes can go back to whatever they looked
like before. But I have a hunch that once people realize how easy
it is to create fast, flexible, fun places for more people to ride,
these lanes will last long past September.

Tell your mayor you demand summer lanes.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
Bike lanes need barriers, not just paint